Fliers at Hurlburt Field Give the Cat Killers at Fort Hood a Lesson in Humanity by Rescuing Four Kittens from Inside a Wall
"I wish I could take them home to my dorm, but I can't. They're babies, angels!"
-- Airwoman First Class Nadia Katana
Cat-haters drown them in streams, suffocate them in plastic bags, and even toss them out with the rubbish. They often are either deliberately or accidentally separated from their mothers shortly after birth and as a consequence soon perish without ever having had the opportunity to live.
They thus never experience the warmth of the sun or the cooling breezes of evening. They never taste tuna, have sex, climb trees, or experience a loving pat on the head or a scratch behind the ears.
They are the offspring of feral and stray cats and with the deck stacked so heavily against them it is nothing short of a minor miracle that any of them ever reach adulthood. Nevertheless, four such waifs are alive today at the Alaqua Animal Refuge in Freeport, Florida, thanks to the unexpected compassion of a group of men and women not generally known for being kindly disposed toward the species.
The new arrivals were discovered and pulled to safety from inside a wall by members of the United States Air Force's Five-Hundred-Fifth Command and Control Wing at Hurlburt Field in nearby Mary Esther. The facility, which was featured in the 1944 movie, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, is part of the larger and better-known Eglin Air Force Base reservation.
"I wish I could take them home to my dorm, but I can't," Airwoman First Class Nadia Katana, who helped bottle-feed the four-day-old kittens, lamented to Air Force Print News on June 25th. (See "Airmen Rescue Kittens Inside Wall.") "They're babies, angels!" (See photo above of her with one of the kittens.)
The kittens' presence was detected early on June 22nd by Bruce Chappell, a civilian employee of the base, who at first mistook their plaintive cries for help for something altogether different. "My first thought was it was a cell phone ringer or screen saver," he admitted to Air Force Print News in the article cited supra. "Then I asked others and they heard it, too."
Starving kittens never quieten down until they are fed and it was precisely their persistence that led to their deliverance. At 4:15 p.m., Master Sergeant Mark Young arrived on the scene and carefully began cutting holes in the wall underneath Chappell's desk.
"I had a utility knife in hand so I cut a small hole in the wall and I could hear them meowing in the background," he later related to the Northwest Florida Daily News of Fort Walton Beach on June 23rd. (See "Kittens Found Trapped in Hurlburt Wall.") "I could see one of the kittens was directly behind the next stud and I could see him clawing, trying to get past that. So, I cut another hole to get in and pulled it out." (See photo below of him with one of the rescued kittens.)
Although Young may have been the one to have freed them from the wall, their care over the next day or so that they remained at Hurlburt Field was a total team effort. Captain Adriana Fernandez, who in civilian life is a veterinary technician, took turns with Katana in bottle-feeding the newborns every two hours throughout the night.
Another unidentified flier rustled up some old T-shirts to serve as a makeshift bed for the little ones while another colleague filled bottles with hot water and wrapped them in towels so as to provide them with some warmth. Still another aviator manually stimulated their distended stomachs so as to force them to eliminate.
The kittens were handed over the next day to Alaqua, which operates a ten-acre, no-kill shelter. According to a video posted on the web site of the Northwest Florida Daily News, the quartet is comprised of two brown and white kittens, one tuxedo, and a gray and white baby cat, all of whom are the very picture of health.
They are expected to remain at Alaqua until they are weaned and after that they will be put up for adoption. If they are not readily claimed, they will be transferred to Eglin Pet Welfare (EPW).
Located on the base itself, the humane organization also is a no-kill facility that specializes in taking in the cats and dogs that Air Force personnel cruelly leave behind when they are transferred elsewhere. Altogether, EPW places approximately three-hundred homeless animals in new abodes each year.
That is the humane and responsible way in which to deal with homeless cats and dogs and stands in stark contrast to the barbaric and murderous behavior of the United States Army at Fort Hood and the United States Navy on San Nicolas Island and in Rota, Spain. (See Cat Defender posts of July 16, 2009 and June 27, 2008 entitled, respectively, "Yellow Two Is Shot and Maimed for Life at Fort Hood in the United States Army's Latest Criminal Offense Against Cats" and "United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the Navy Hatch a Diabolical Plan to Gun Down Two-Hundred Cats on San Nicolas Island.")
It would be interesting to know, however, how Hurlburt Field's and Eglin's outwardly friendly policies toward cats and dogs mesh with the Pentagon's 2002 edict that all non-working animals on military installations be exterminated. The best that can be hoped for in that regard is that the rescue of the kittens was not an isolated incident and that neither facility employs pest control officers who routinely gun down cats.
EPW also provided a humane trap which allowed the airmen to successfully trap the mother cat and to reunite her with her babies at Alaqua. That was essential in that it is not a good idea to remove kittens from their mothers until sometime after they have been weaned. It also saved the staff at Alaqua a lot of sleepless nights.
Although nothing can be taken for granted where cats are concerned, the airmen theorize that the mother crawled into the building through a ventilation duct and gave birth in one the crawl spaces in the ceiling. The kittens then for some unknown reason tumbled out of the ceiling and landed behind the wall.
It is a sure bet that their mother has borne her last litter but hopefully Alaqua will allow her to remain with them long enough in order to teach them how to play, hunt, and groom themselves. After that it would be wonderful if loving homes could be found for all of them, including the mother, especially in light of how hard they have had to struggle in order to make it even this far.
Photos: Keith Keel of the United States Air Force.