NAVARRE — A Tampa Bay Area family who evacuated to Navarre last month during Hurricane Irma is “overjoyed” after their cat, who got lost somewhere in Navarre during the evacuation, was found and returned to them Thursday after a month of frantic searching.

Lisa-Marie Begall of Largo said she and her four-year-old daughter Lena packed up their RV with their belongings and their cat, Oscar, and headed north as soon as officials began issuing evacuation warnings for their area ahead of Hurricane Irma in early September.

“My husband was in Germany, so we got everything ready, I filled the RV up with gas and bought a box for Oscar to join us,” Begall said over the phone from Tampa. “I thought, no way we are going to leave him here. He is like my child. I’m not going to leave him behind.”

Begall said she adopted Oscar from a rescue shelter in July for her daughter, Lena, who had been begging for a cat for years. Begall and Lena had stopped several times on their way to Northwest Florida and had let Oscar out with them, and said he had always stayed by their side and never strayed away.

But when the family stopped next to a beach trail in Navarre, Oscar ran down the trail and never came back.

“We went outside the RV and took him with us like we had done many times before, and he ran onto the beach trail that leads to the ocean and wouldn’t com back,” Begall said. “I was standing right next to that trail and watched him go under (the bushes) and after 15 minutes or so I called him and looked for him, but there was no Oscar.”

Begall and Lena walked up and down the beach, the nearby street and all throughout a nearby neighborhood for their cat, to no avail. The distraught pair continued searching for Oscar for another week, even after Irma had come and gone and they were safe to return home, but the kitty had not been found.

Eventually, Begall and her daughter went back to Largo, but they continued posting on local Facebook groups and begging area residents to keep an eye out for him.

Dena Wise, a Navarre resident with rescue cats of her own, was one of the people who saw the Facebook posts. She said she began walking up and down local streets at dusk, calling out for him and asking people if they had seen him.

“He’s friendly, so I figured if he knew I was there calling for him, he would get used to my voice,” Wise said.

Eventually she found a woman who had been feeding feral cats, and Wise learned one of the cats was Oscar.

Wise alerted the woman to the situation, who managed to trap Oscar in her home Wednesday so Wise could come pick him up. When Bergall learned the cat had finally been found after nearly a month, she said she could not believe it.

“When Dena sent me a text with the picture of Oscar, we were sitting at dinner,” Begall said. “I couldn’t say anything. I just showed my daughter the picture and we both cried.”

Wise drove to Tallahassee on Thursday to meet Begall halfway and reunite her with her Oscar, who is now back home in Largo sleeping in his garden and playing with Lena.

“It’s just phenomenal. I have no words to tell you how happy I am,” Bergall said. “Looking at my daughter’s face every time she’s cuddling with him and playing with him, it’s just like my heart is melting. He belongs here and nowhere else, and now that we are all together again I am so happy.”

As for Wise, who is former military, she said taking the time to help a complete stranger hundreds of miles away was just the right thing to do, and it was worth it seeing the cat reunite with her family.

“Sometimes something clicks and you just do things for people,” she said. “It’s just a nice, positive thing you can say you’ve done for someone else.”