Accidentally Trapped in a Shipping Crate, a Calico Cat Named Spice Survives a Nineteen-Day Sea Voyage from Hawaii to San Bernardino
"It's always a good day when the cat's alive. We didn't know what we would find."
-- Pamela Escamilla
Every few weeks or so a new story surfaces concerning an heroic cat that has miraculously survived a long and arduous misadventure without either food or water. The common denominators in these extraordinary tales are invariably such common modes of conveyance as ships, vans, and trains on the one hand and packing crates of one sort or another on the other hand that cats inadvertently get trapped in against their will.
The latest such incident involves a plucky three-year-old calico cat named Spice who was accidentally trapped inside a shipping container in Waikoloa Village on Hawaii's Big Island on June 15th. She was then forced to endure nineteen nerve-racking days alone in the dark without either food or water as the twenty-foot container wended its way across the Pacific in the cargo hold of a ship. (See photo above.)
The ship first docked in Long Beach on June 29th but the container was not opened until it reached its final destination in San Bernardino on July 3rd.
Once it was unsealed, Spice's owner, thirty-nine-year-old Pamela Escamilla, immediately noticed that there was cat hair scattered about the crate and, putting two and two together, began hurriedly unpacking items in a frantic search for Spice. At first she feared the worst but then to her relief Spice poked her little head out from behind some bicycles.
The cat was then rushed to a local veterinarian in just the nick of time. Her kidneys had shrunk due to a lack of water and her bowels had backed up, but the vet was nonetheless able to get some food and water into her.
She is now being fed a steady diet of soup made from chicken bone marrow and is expected to make a complete recovery. "It's always a good day when the cat's alive," Escamilla told the San Bernardino County Sun on July 4th. (See "Curious Cat Survives High Seas. Calico Cooped Up for Eighteen (sic) Days.")
Although Spice's disappearance was noted before the Escamillas departed Waikoloa Village, apparently no one thought to check the packing container before it was sealed. Compounding matters further, the Escamillas left Hawaii without Spice.
That petit fait alone demonstrates writ large just how little the Escamillas care about their cat and it certainly does not bode well for Spice's chances of survival in California. It is doubtful that they would have left the Big Island if either their thirteen-year-old son Ryan or their nine-year-old daughter Brooke had disappeared. (See photo below of Ryan and Brooke with Spice.)
Last October, a cat from Crowley, Texas named Neo became trapped inside a neighbor's moving van and as a consequence wound up in Longmont, Colorado. Luckily for him, the employees of Golden Van Lines went the extra mile in order to return him to his owners. (See Cat Defender post of November 6, 2006 entitled "Trapped in a Moving Van for Five Days, Texas Cat Named Neo Is Finally Freed in Colorado.")
During the autumn of 2005, a cat named Emily from Appleton, Wisconsin wandered into an industrial plant where she became trapped inside a cargo container that was bound for Nancy, France. Like Neo, she was fortunate enough to be rescued by cat-friendly employees of a laminating company called Raflatac who not only paid for the thirty days that she was forced to spend in quarantine as mandated by French law but also arranged for her repatriation. Continental Airlines magnanimously flew her home gratis. (See Cat Defender post of November 9, 2005 entitled "Adventurous Wisconsin Cat Named Emily Makes Unscheduled Trip to France in Hold of Cargo Ship.")
Earlier this spring, a cat named China spent thirty-five days trapped with a consignment of motorcycle wearing apparel in the hold of a cargo ship that was bound from Shanghai to Hendersonville, North Carolina.
At the moment she is being held at a veterinarian's office where she is serving out a rather lengthy quarantine. One or more employees of Olympia Moto Sports, the company where she was accidentally shipped to, have expressed interest in adopting her once she gets out of quarantine in October.
At first it was feared that China would be put to death because no one was willing to foot the bill for her time in quarantine, but hopefully that issue has been laid to rest and this long-suffering cat will now be allowed to go on living. (See Cat Defender post of May 17, 2006 entitled "North Carolina Shelter Plotting to Kill Cat That Survived Being Trapped for Thirty-Five Days in the Cargo Hold of Ship from China.")
In 2001, Port Taranaki's resident feline, Colin's, made headlines when she was shanghaied aboard a tanker and wound up in South Korea. Luckily, the port's superintendent, Gordon MacPherson, thought enough of her to travel to South Korea in order to reclaim her and return her to Australia. (See Cat Defender post of May 31, 2007 entitled "Port Taranaki Kills Off Its World Famous Seafaring Feline, Colin's, at Age Seventeen.")
Trains, as well as ships and moving vans, can also be pitfalls for cats. Par exemple, last March a cat named Rascal wandered onto a freight train that had come to rest outside her house in South Bend and as the result wound up in Chattanooga. Like Neo and Emily before her, she was fortunate enough to have been rescued by the employees of a cat-loving company and has since been reunited with her family. (See Cat Defender post of June 7, 2007 entitled "Rascal Hops Freight Train in South Bend and Unwittingly Winds Up in Chattanooga.")
All of these amazing stories underscore the need for cat owners to be vigilant whenever shipping crates, trains, vans, and ships are nearby. The hustle and bustle that commonly accompanies the presence of these objects quite often frightens cats and thus prompts them to seek refuge in the very objects that lead to their undoing.
As extraordinary as these tales of survival are in themselves, it is important to remember that they need not have occurred in the first place if the cats' guardians had been more attentive. Fewer such stories will no doubt impoverish both feline literature and folklore, but the up side is that a smaller number of cats will be forced to endure such trying ordeals. Besides, for every story with a happy ending there are probably dozens more than end in tragedy.
Photos: KNBC-TV, Los Angeles (Spice) and the Escamilla family (Spice with Ryan and Brooke.)