A couple who spent £6,000 bringing a stray cat back from holiday in Egypt are devastated – after the moggy went missing.
Railton and Dawn Elliott fell in love with the tabby called ‘Omar’ and decided to save him from violence sweeping the country during the Arab Spring.
The couple shelled out a fortune in quarantine and vets’ bills and the lucky pet settled into his new life at their home in rural Oxfordshire.
But Omar vanished two weeks ago and the pair have now launched a high-profile search, plastering the local area in ‘missing’ posters.
Dawn, 46, who runs a confectionary company with her husband, said: “We’re absolutely heartbroken.
“We’d give anything to have him back. He’s such a lovely and friendly creature.”
Railton added: “We were left with no option but to bring him home with us. I’ve had cats all my life and never known one to be so gentle, so loving and tender.”
The couple first met Omar as they bathed on a veranda outside their apartment in the Red Sea resort of El Gouna in February 2011.
Railton said: “The holiday resort was huge but deserted, so we were upgraded to a villa right on the beach front. The next morning the most beautiful cat appeared.
“It was clear that he was an abandoned, not feral, cat.
“He had sought refuge in a bush immediately to the front of our villa and over the next few days we fed him three times a day with food we collected from the hotel buffet.
“We became great friends with our new chum whom we named Omar in homage to the great actor, Omar Sharif.”
At the time Egypt was sliding towards civil war as President Hosni Mubarak was being overthrown and the Elliotts believe Omar may have been abandoned as his owners fled.
Railton, 57, added: “There weren’t any towns nearby, or houses or villages.
“People were leaving Egypt in droves at that time, and I think someone took the decision that if they were to leave their cat at the hotel, he might stand a chance of survival.”
Before leaving after their ten-day break they paid for Omar to be cared for at a local cattery while they sorted the paperwork to bring him home.
A month later Omar was loaded onto a plane in Luxor, Egypt, and flown to Gatwick Airport where he was collected by pet import specialists Precious Pets.
Omar spent the following six months in quarantine at their facility in Chepstow, Gloucestershire.
Railton and Dawn made the 150 mile round-trip up to three times a week to visit him and were delighted when they were finally allowed to bring him home to the village of Combe on September 22 last year.
The cost of quarantine was in excess of £2,000, excluding six months of food and vets’ bills.
The remaining money was spent on petrol going to visit the cat, his flight back from Egypt, a taxi to Luxor Airport and also Egyptian vet bills.
Railton said: “I left Dawn to sort out the finances – I didn’t care what it cost, I just wanted him home.
“He has loved his new surroundings her, particularly the fields and woods where he could roam to his heart’s content.”
Now the pair have launched a desperate appeal after Omar went missing two weeks ago, almost a year to the day after he left quarantine.
The heartbroken couple, who run Elliotts of Oxford Fine Confectionary and Superior Nuts, have been putting up posters and fliers through neighbours’ letter boxes in a bid to find their pet.
They have offered a £25 reward for the cat’s return – and a lifetime’s supply of chocolate.
Dawn said she took the tracker collar off her cat the night before he vanished.
She said: “Normally Omar has a 400m tracker collar on, because it teaches him to come home as beeps when he goes too far.
“The night before he went away I brushed him as I do every night. I took his collar off to brush him and I didn’t put it back on because he was asleep.
“He was lying on the sofa and looked so cute.We have a cat flap that we never shut.
“In the morning he was gone and I’m kicking myself every day for not putting his collar back on.”
Omar never stayed out for more than one night, and Dawn is worried sick about what might have happened to him.
She said: “It’s not the first time he didn’t have his collar on, but it’s the first time he’s gone away from home.
“Everybody in the village knows he’s missing – I had two people putting letters through doors and signs up.
“He likes getting up in the morning because he likes to try to catch the birds. I feed the blackbirds and he tries to chase them.
“He never catches them, but the silly sausage actually cries. He’s never run away before, we give him too many king prawns.
“I only get them when they’re half price. Sometimes my husband thinks I feed the cat better than him.
“It doesn’t bear thinking about what might have happened to poor Omar. I hope he comes home soon.”