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TAMPA, Fla. — A cat that was mistaken for dead and buried alive, only to crawl its way out of the grave, has a new lease on life.

The Humane Society of Tampa Bay announced Wednesday that Bart, who was nicknamed “Zombie Cat,” was formally adopted by his foster family, WFLA reported.

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The determined feline had been the center of a lengthy legal battle since the January 2015 incident. Owner Ellis Hutson claimed that the cat was hit by a car, believed to be dead and was buried on the side of the road. The cat showed up in a neighbor’s yard five days later, sporting wounds and covered in maggots. The Humane Society of Tampa Bay took in Bart and cared for him.

Bart lost an eye and had surgery to repair a broken jaw. He has remained in the custody of the humane society for 20 months.

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Hutson sued the Humane Society of Tampa Bay to try to get his cat back, claiming that the agency was trying to maintain custody of Bart for fundraising purposes. The Humane Society said facts in the case placed doubt on Hutson’s account, and they pointed out that he failed to seek immediate care for Bart after he emerged from the grave.

The legal battle ended on Wednesday, and the humane society was granted legal ownership of Bart. But that lasted just a few hours, before Bart’s foster family officially adopted him. The humane society released a statement on its website about the latest developments:

To many he became known as “Zombie Cat,” but to us he’s always been nothing short of a miracle. Not because we believe he rose from the dead, but because his gentle spirit, will to survive and resilience in the face of extreme trauma embody all that we love and admire about animals. He is truly an ambassador for second chances and continues to inspire people the world over. We love you, Bart, always and forever.

By Cox Media Group National Content Desk |