In August 1951, a wire-service story appeared in numerous newspapers about a six-year-old cat named Tom that found its way back to its owners by walking across the entire United States.
Mr. and Mrs Charles Smith lived in St. Petersburg, Florida, but in 1949 they had to move to San Gabriel, California. For some reason, they couldn't take their cat with them, so they made arrangements for the man buying their house to adopt him. Two weeks after the move, they got a call from the new owner, telling them Tom had run away.
Fast-forward two years. The Smiths hear a cat meowing in their driveway. They go outside and, lo and behold, it's old Tom! Skinny and tired, but happy to see his family.
As far as I can tell, the press accepted this story at face value. Though if you think about it, the idea of it is absurd. The cat would have had to travel around 4 miles every day, having no idea where it was going, crossing deserts and mountains. I'd say that's impossible.
The more logical explanation is that a cat resembling Tom started meowing in the Smith's driveway, and the Smiths decided it was Tom. After two years, they probably only had a vague recollection of what Tom even looked like. And the press, once they got wind of the story, didn't ask too many questions. After all, why let logic get in the way of a good story!
15-month-old Pat Smith with 'Tom'
Here Elizabeth Smith is introducing 'Tom' to the fish bowl as a test.
The old Tom turned his nose up at raw fish, and apparently so did the new Tom.
(via USC Archive
Spokane Daily Chronicle, Aug 3, 1951