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HOUSTON -- Meet Dolly, the $5,000 cat.

She's just like a child, said her owner Keith Hardin. That's the simplest way I could put it.

Hardin didn't spend that much to adopt the exotic short hair. That's how he paid to get her back after she went missing.

Dolly vanished New Year's Eve after someone broke into Hardin's Greenspoint apartment. He didn't know if Dolly was stolen or if she ran out of the open door.

Hardin put flyers up all over his neighborhood and even got help from a co-worker and fellow cat lover, Charles Frey.

One of my cats passed away from lung cancer a little more than a month ago and that motivated me to help Keith try to find his cat, he said.

Hardin originally offered an undisclosed amount as a reward. By February, the reward was up to $1,000.

In March, Frey chipped in some money and Hardin withdrew money from his 401k to raise the reward to a whopping $5,000.

My mom just thinks I'm absolutely nuts to spend that much money on a cat, admitted Hardin. She's not a cat person but I know she would have done it in a heartbeat for her dog.

Two weeks ago, Hardin took a call from someone saying they found remains of a black cat that resembled Dolly.

Believing it was her, Hardin took the remains to be cremated for $125.

He put Dolly to rest or so he thought.

On Sunday, Hardin was contacted by a woman who claimed she found Dolly in a nearby apartment complex. She even e-mailed him pictures as proof.

I couldn't stop shaking, Hardin told us. My heart was completely in my throat.

The cat for cash exchange happened at a public place and Dolly was checked out by her vet.

All nine lives intact, and a microchip was implanted into Dolly this time around.

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