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Cat Defender

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Trapped Inside a Crate, Ginger Licks Up Condensation in Order to Survive a Nightmarish Sea Voyage from China to Nottinghamshire

"The conditions in the container were awful. There would have been nothing for the cat to eat and he would have been drinking condensation off the container. It would have been very dark and wouldn't have been very pleasant at all."
-- Jane Whiteside

With only dripping condensation for sustenance, a very brave and long-suffering cat named Ginger recently somehow managed to survive a nightmarish five-week, sixty-five-hundred-mile sea voyage from China to the village of Forest Town on the outskirts of Mansfield in Nottinghamshire while trapped inside a shipping crate. (See photo above.)

Press reports are contradictory, but apparently Ginger left the port city of Xiamen (Amoy) in Fujian Province sometime in mid-June. (See photo below of the port as seen from Gulangyu Island.) Following a stop in Singapore, the ship sailed through the Suez Canal before continuing on up the Mediterranean Sea.

This is pure conjecture, but the ship most likely docked in either Venice, Genoa, Nice, or Marseilles and Ginger was then trucked to Hamburg. From there he was placed on another ship and sent onward to the English port of Felixstowe where he was loaded onto a truck and driven to Forest Town.

The crate was finally unsealed by employees of Toray Textiles sometime during the third week of July. (See photo below of the plant.) To say that they were surprised to find more than polyester yarn inside would be an understatement.

"We were obviously surprised when the container of yarn was opened to find a cat looking at us, and still alive after five weeks on the sea," the manufacturer's Donna Harding told the Mansfield Chad on July 28th. (See "Stowaway Cat Uses Up Its Nine Lives on Five-Week Sea Journey.") "The cat was in poor condition and obviously distressed."

That is putting it mildly. Ginger, so named because of the color of his coat, was famished, dehydrated, and obviously at the end of his rope.

Toray immediately contacted Jean Smith of Nottinghamshire County Council's Animal Health and Welfare office which arranged for Ginger to be put up at the Nottinghamshire International Quarantine Center in nearby Retford. Because of England's absurd quarantine laws, Ginger will be confined there in a cage for the next six months. (See bottom photo.)

To subject him to such an ordeal after all that he has been through is the very epitome of cruel and inhumane treatment. Besides, veterinarians certainly do not need six months in order to determine if a cat is carrying any exotic diseases.

The good news, however, is that he is again eating and drinking and beginning to relax. He also has a home waiting for him once his imprisonment is over in that Toray employee Deborah Ford has announced plans to adopt him.

The Council paid for Ginger's first two weeks of confinement and Toray is generously coughing up $2,800 in order to cover the cost of the remaining five and one-half months.

"The conditions in the container were awful," Jane Whiteside of the Quarantine Center told the BBC on July 29th. (See "Cat Hitches Ship Ride from Taiwan (sic).") "There would have been nothing for the cat to eat and he would have been drinking condensation off the container. It would have been very dark and wouldn't have been very pleasant at all."

As far as it is known, no studies have been conducted on the long-term physical and mental effects that these types of hellish experiences have upon cats. It is nonetheless quite obvious that being deprived of food and water for such a lengthy period of time can damage internal organs. The psychological damage is incalculable.

Even more disturbingly, these types of feline misadventures are increasing in frequency as world trade expands. In fact, Ginger is the second cat known to have been mistakenly shipped from China in little more than a year.

In April of 2007, a cat dubbed China by her rescuers was accidentally included in a consignment of motorcycle wearing apparel shipped from Shanghai to Hendersonville, North Carolina. Although there initially was concern that she might be killed by shelter workers, an employee of the importer has reportedly agreed to adopt her.

As with Ginger, China also was forced to endure six months of unnecessary confinement. (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.")

In order to get around these idiotic quarantine laws, it would be better if importers simply took stowaway cats to veterinarians and kept mum about their origins. That way the cats would receive the medical attention that they need while simultaneously avoiding being locked up for long periods of time. After all, the goal is to save the cats' lives, not to fatten the coffers of already fabulously wealthy veterinarians.

This also would make finding homes for the cats both easier and cheaper since there are not too many businesses like Toray that are willing to foot the bill for their time in quarantine. Consequently, some stowaways no doubt are killed by shelters simply because their importers are too cheap to provide them with the financial assistance that they require.

Moreover, for every story of this genre with a happy ending there are thousands more that never make the news because the cats either died en route or shortly after being rescued. (See Cat Defender posts of March 21, 2008 and April 25, 2008 entitled, respectively, "Malli Survives a Thirty-Two-Day Voyage from Johor Bahru to Cleveland Trapped Inside a Shipping Crate" and "After Surviving a Lengthy and Hellish Confinement at Sea, Malli Dies Unexpectedly in Foster Care.")

Importers in Angleterre and elsewhere could save the lives of innumerable cats and other animals by doing business only with vendors that agree to double-check their shipping containers for live cargo before sealing them. Quite naturally, the same logic applies to consignments that they ship abroad. That is not asking much and it would not cost exporters a solitary cent.

As for Ginger, he is not out of the woods just yet. His quarantine period has only begun and shelters are notorious for both their unhygienic conditions and the slipshod care that they provide. Hopefully nothing harmful will befall him and he will be home with his new family sometime during the holidays.

Photos: BBC (Ginger), Wikipedia (Xiamen), and Mansfield Chad (Toray and Ginger in a cage).