After Surviving a Lengthy and Hellish Confinement at Sea, Malli Dies Unexpectedly in Foster Care
"She at least knew kindness, comfort, and love before she died."
-- Sharon Harvey of CAPL
Malli, the courageous and long-suffering black and white kitten who earlier this year miraculously survived an arduous thirty-two-day trip from Malaysia to Cleveland trapped inside a shipping crate, died unexpectedly in foster care on March 22nd. (See photos above and below.)
Following her rescue on March 7th by employees of Samsel Supply, she spent the following two weeks in quarantine at the Cleveland Animal Protective League (CAPL) where she was nursed back to health. She progressed so rapidly that she was then transferred to the organization's foster care program.
That is when something went terribly wrong because the energetic and loving kitten died within a day or two. Her corpse has since been removed to the veterinary hospital at Ohio State University for a necropsy.
Although the results of the necropsy have not been disclosed, preliminary indications are that her death was not caused by either rabies, panleukopenia, or any exotic disease that she might have brought with her from the Orient. Besides, she was put through a complete battery of tests while in quarantine.
According to the CAPL's web site, forensic pathologists suspect that she may have died from either some congenital defect or that her immune system was somehow compromised during her long voyage and thus unable to function properly once she was removed from quarantine. It also is conceivable that she could have ingested poison or met with some sort of accident.
Foul play cannot be totally ruled out either. "All things were possible with cats because some people seem to regard them as fair game for any cruelty," noted veterinarian and author James Herriot observed in his book, Cat Stories.
"She at least knew kindness, comfort, and love before she died," is how the CAPL's Sharon Harvey eulogized her on April 18th for The Plain Dealer. (See "Cat Dies in Cleveland after Long Ocean Voyage.")
Although the CAPL is certainly justified in ordering a necropsy, it alone will not address all the outstanding issues. For instance, why was Malli rushed out of quarantine and into foster care?
When an Appleton, Wisconsin cat named Emily unwittingly wound up in Nancy, France she was forced to endure thirty days of quarantine before she was allowed to return home. (See Cat Defender post of December 9, 2005 entitled "Adventurous Wisconsin Cat Named Emily Makes Unscheduled Trip to France in Hold of Cargo Ship.")
A cat dubbed China was forced to endure an even lengthier confinement last year when she became trapped in a shipping crate in Shanghai and ended up in Hendersonville, North Carolina. (See Cat Defender post of May 17, 2007 entitled "North Carolina Shelter Plotting to Kill Cat That Survived Being Trapped for Thirty-Five Days in Cargo Hold of Ship from China.")
Secondly, why was she placed in foster care rather than in a permanent home when dozens of individuals had expressed a desire to adopt her? In fact, Harvey earlier told the press that the cat was going to be adopted by one of her rescuers, presumably an employee of Samsel.
Thirdly, why did The Plain Dealer wait almost four weeks before announcing that Malli had died? Since articles appearing on the its web site are undated, it is impossible to determine when the CAPL broke the sad news to the public.
Both the CAPL and The Plain Dealer owe the public a full and complete accounting of the cause and circumstances surrounding Malli's death.
The details of her early existence are sketchy but apparently Malli, her mother, and an unspecified number of siblings became trapped in the shipping crate in the Malaysian port city of Johor Bahru sometime between the first and fourth of February. Since Malli is estimated to have been no more than five or six weeks old at that time, it is possible that she and her siblings were born in the crate.
The crate was then sealed and loaded aboard a ship which sailed from Johor Bahru on February 7th. It docked in Los Angeles on February 25th at which time the crate was loaded aboard a truck and sent overland to Cleveland.
When the crate was opened on March 7th Malli was discovered to be the only survivor. Furthermore, it is speculated that she subsisted by nibbling on the remains of her mother and siblings. (See Cat Defender post of March 21, 2008 entitled "Malli Survives a Thirty-Two-Day Voyage from Johor Bahru to Cleveland Trapped Inside a Shipping Crate.")
Rather than provoking an outpouring of sadness and grief, Malli's death has instead provided a convenient outlet for every cat-hater and his brother to vent his spleen. A visit to The Plain Dealer's web site reveals just how deep both ailurophobia and moral depravity run in the heartland of America. The taboo against speaking ill of the dead obviously has gone the way of the nickel cigar.
Cat-lovers must nonetheless persevere and let illegitimis nil carborundum be their guiding principle. As for Malli, she was a genuine hero who will be sorely missed.
Born around Christmastime, she barely lived long enough to see even the arrival of spring. Nonetheless, her struggle to survive in the face of gargantuan odds was an inspiration to cat-lovers all over the world.
Sadly, she will never know adulthood or have kittens of her own. (Most likely she already had been sterilized by CAPL anyway.) She will never frolic in the green grass, nap in the warm summer sun, or experience any of the other thousands of joies de vivre.
She will not have died in vain, however, if the CAPL could be persuaded to keep her memory alive and Samsel would make it a matter of company policy to insist that its suppliers double-check their consignments for stowaways before sealing them.
Photos: Steve Trueman of CAPL.