Souvenirs brought back from the Bahamas usually include refrigerator magnets, tropical T-shirts and perhaps a bottle of rum. But Max Potvin and girlfriend Julie LeBlanc never expected to return to their Sanford, Maine, home with an orphaned kitten they named Arnie.
At the start of their two-week vacation, they heard the kitten’s tiny mews and spotted him peering from tall grasses at their beach resort on the Grand Bahama island near Freeport.
“We then spotted more kittens and cats there, and they all looked nice looking and friendly,” recalls Max, who manages a seafood restaurant called Jonathan’s in Ogunquit. “They also looked hungry, so we started feeding them. But we noticed that Arnie was off by himself and we guessed he was about 10 to 12 weeks old.”
Arnie quickly worked his charm on the couple and greeted them the next morning with plea-filled mews outside their door. They quickly became smitten by this kitten sporting a coat with gray-and-white swirls.
Deciding to adopt Arnie was the easy part. The real challenge came in completing all the legal steps to ensure this “potcat” would sail through customs. (Years before commercial pet food, islanders typically fed cats and dogs the rice, peas and carrots scraped from the bottom of cast iron pots — hence the ‘potcat’ nickname.)
Max and Julie reached out to the Humane Society of the Grand Bahama shelter first. Staffers recommended they take Arnie to Chante Wildgoose, DVM, and her Freeport Veterinary Hospital for necessary vaccinations, health travel certification and boarding until they departed back home to Maine.
“Dr. Wildgoose was so kind,” Max says. “She boarded Arnie for free and even wrote a letter that stated Arnie was healthy and could handle the long flights and living in Maine.”
The next challenge was finding an airline-approved pet carrier for Arnie on this small island. The couple rented a car with the sole mission of finding a soft-sided carrier for Arnie so he could be inside the cabin with them. “We spent a half-day before finding a pet carrier at a Tru-Value hardware store, but by then, Arnie was already feeling like a member of our family,” he says.
Weather and flight delays combined to make the flight home last more than 20 hours. “Arnie was remarkably very quiet for most of the flights,” Max says.
Today, Arnie is happily established inside their Maine home with an older feline brother named Eddie, who also sports a gray-and-white coat.
“Eddie hissed at Arnie at first, but we made the introductions gradually,” Max says. “We also used a Feliway diffuser with kitty pheromones. Within a few weeks, they bonded, and now they are good friends.”
During warm weather, Arnie, now 10 months old, joins Eddie for some outdoor time under the supervision of the couple. “We have a nice-sized yard with trees and grass for them to hide and hang out, but when the wind gets chilly, Arnie hates it,” he laughs. “I think Arnie enjoys Maine a lot, but I think he is still a Bahama cat at heart.