Homeward bound: bobcat returns after giving US zoo the slip

This image released by the Smithsonian National Zoo in 2013 shows a female bobcat named Ollie (AFP Photo/Janice Sveda) (Smithsonian's National Zoo/AFP/File)

Washington (AFP) - After an elusive feline from Washington's National Zoo triggered a three-day cat hunt -- and an online sensation -- Ollie the bobcat on Wednesday ventured home on her own terms.

The seven year-old, 25-pound (12-kilogram) female went missing early Monday from her enclosure in the US capital, apparently after slipping through a hole in the fencing.

Ollie ultimately turned up near the zoo's bird house, where keepers successfully captured her and took her for a checkup with veterinarians.

"We're just over the moon happy," said Craig Saffoe, curator of big cats at the zoo. "I think she was ready to come home."

"When you find a member of your family that's been missing, it fills you with joy -- crazy joy."

A team of zookeepers, police officers and animal rescue workers had deemed their search futile just hours earlier: it was "less of a chance than finding a needle in a haystack," said Brandie Smith, an animal care specialist at the zoo.

The search party assumed the gray-furred, short-tailed feline had found a happy new home in nearby Rock Creek Park. Since bobcats are not aggressive, authorities decided to suspend the hunt in the name of common sense.

"She wanted to go out, have a little bit of fun, see what it's like on the outside," Saffoe said, visibly relieved to have the cat back safe and sound.

Ollie did arrive home with a small, harmless cut on her left front paw. Animal care workers say they will do a full exam on her to ensure "no ill effects" came from her adventure.

Her escapades did propel her to Twitter stardom: her photo was shared widely on social networks, often accompanied by political commentary.

Some said her escape proves that fencing is useless, a reference to Donald Trump's order to construct a wall on the US-Mexico border wall.

Many also associated Ollie with the cat-eared "pussy" hat that was symbolic of the recent Women's March peaceful protest against a number of the US president's policy stances.

"She chose security over freedom," wrote one Twitter user following the bobcat's return.

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