Mandarin Survives a Long and Harrowing Sea Voyage from China to Canada Only to Wind Up in Hock to the Calgary Humane Society
"We had to empty the entire container before being able to reach the cat because (she) jumped and hid in a corner that was unreachable."
-- Amy Bindman of ICON Stone and Tile
In spite of a thousand admonitions to the contrary, cats and kittens from China continue to turn up in England, Canada, the United States, and elsewhere trapped inside shipping crates and half-starved to death following long sea voyages. The latest such waif to land in the new world is a six-months-old tortoiseshell named Mandarin. (See photos above and below.)
Sandwiched in between granite slabs and wood dividers in a steel container, she arrived at ICON Stone and Tile in Calgary on July 8th. Since shipments from China usually take between thirty and forty-five days in order to reach Calgary, Mandarin was without any visible means of sustenance during that extended period.
"There may have been mice or things running around the enclosure," Desiree Arsenault of the Calgary Humane Society (CHS) speculated to the Calgary Herald on July 9th. (See "Cat Survives Month in Shipping Crate, Lands in Calgary.") "I can only guess."
She also no doubt was able to lick up condensation that formed inside the container. Moreover, if she had had any significant amount of either food or water she would have left behind the telltale evidence in the container.
Despite her weakened condition, the spunky kitten amazingly still had enough strength left in her in order to initially flee her rescuers. "We had to empty the entire container before being able to reach the cat because (she) jumped and hid in a corner that was unreachable," Amy Bindman of ICON Stone and Tile told the Calgary Herald.
Handed over to the CHS shorty after her arrival, it was determined that Mandarin's weight had plummeted to slightly less than two pounds during her grueling ordeal. She additionally was close to being hoarse from crying for help that never arrived until her journey's end.
Initially, she was fed intravenously in order to avoid any potential stomach problems. Her electrolytes and blood count were, as expected, a trifle low but otherwise she was in pretty good shape and, best of all, not suffering from any major diseases.
Despite her near-death experience, Mandarin remains a very affectionate kitten. "Mandarin is super cuddly and very interactive with people who she's speaking with," Arsenault told Calgary's Metro on July 14th. (See "Stowaway Feline Recovering: Society.") "She's a cuddle-up bug that's for sure."
Mandarin was expected to spend several weeks at CHS recuperating and being vaccinated against rabies, which is required by Canadian law for all imported cats over three-months of age, before being put up for adoption. Unlike Angleterre, which insanely requires that all cats arriving from foreign countries be quarantined for six months, Canada thankfully does not have any such stipulation.
Once she is well enough to leave CHS, Mandarin already has a home waiting for her with ICON Stone and Tile employee, Angela Izzo. "I almost broke into tears (when I first saw her)," she told the Calgary Herald in the article cited supra. "She looked very fragile and just traumatized."
Out of the frying pan and into the fire, so to speak, she is now being hounded by the CHS for money. Donations are being solicited from the public in order to cover the cost of her care but they may not be sufficient in order to get Mandarin out of debt.
Ideally, ICON Stone and Tile and the unidentified Chinese exporter should be held liable for Mandarin's veterinary tab. After all, it is primarily Chinese exporters who continue to allow these tragic events to occur by being too uncaring, selfish, and greedy to check their outward bound cargoes for stowaways. ICON and other importers around the world are equally liable for failing to insist that their Chinese suppliers adopt humane shipping practices.
Some importers are, however, considerably more forthcoming and compassionate when it comes to stowaways than others. For example, Toray Textiles of Nottinghamshire paid $2,800 of Ginger's $3,200 quarantine fee after she arrived in a consignment from Xiamon (Amoy) in Fujian Province, China, during the summer of 2008.
The trip itself took five weeks and on top of that Ginger was forced to endure six-months in quarantine. At the end of it all, she was given a home by Toray's Deborah Ford. (See Cat Defender post of August 11, 2008 entitled "Trapped Inside a Crate, Ginger Licks Up Condensation in Order to Survive a Nightmarish Sea Voyage from China to Nottinghamshire.")
Along about that same time, Matalan, a clothing retailer, also paid all of Ronaldo's $3,200 quarantine fee after he arrived in Corby, Northamptonshire, by truck from Portugal. (See Cat Defender post of August 18, 2008 entitled "Ronaldo Escapes Death after Retailer Coughs Up the Exorbitant Bounty That Quarantine Officials Had Placed on His Head.")
The staff and management of Raflatac in Nancy did likewise for a domestic cat named Emily from Appleton, Wisconsin, after she unwittingly wound up in one of its imports. Continental Airlines magnanimously flew her home for free. (See Cat Defender post of December 9, 2005 entitled "Adventurous Wisconsin Cat Named Emily Makes Unscheduled Trip to France in Hold of Cargo Ship.")
Neither Toray, Matalan, Raflactac, nor Continental were forced to come to Ginger's Ronaldo's, and Emily's aid but to their credit they opened up their hearts and wallets and showed compassion. It therefore would not kill ICON and CHS to do likewise for Mandarin.
Considering all the hell that she has been put through, she deserves no less. Oscar Wilde once defined a cynic as someone "who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing" and that reasoning just as easily could be applied to those who look upon all creation in terms of dollars and cents.
Sadly, that is what most things come down to nowadays. The air, mountains, streams, animals, and individuals are no longer deemed to have much in the way of intrinsic value. Money even determines which animals and individuals receive medical care and thus are permitted to go on living.
Mandarin, however, is one of the lucky cats who have survived long enforced sea voyages without either food or water. Most such cats die en route and their stories never make the news.
Malli was a notable exception to that rule only in that her story made the headlines. (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.")
All of these deaths and unnecessary suffering could have been so easily avoided if both exporters and importers alike had behaved in a halfway humane fashion. Most of them, unfortunately, think only about money.
Hopefully, things will work out for Mandarin in Calgary and she will go on to have a long and happy life. Her health, however, should be monitored closely because, like Malli, it is possible that she could have sustained internal organ damage that is not apparent at the moment.
Photos: Amy Bindman of ICON Stone and Tile (Mandarin in a cage) and Metro (Mandarin eating.)