When a U.S. Navy ship docked in a foreign port recently, Eric Hanst and his fellow sailors had no idea that they were taking on some very special cargo.
After they had been in port for a while, a cat scaled a mooring line to board the craft. “We lost track of her and found her later that evening,” said Hanst. But when they returned the cat to the pier and waved goodbye as they sailed off, “[the cat] seemed unusually upset.”
A few days later, the sailors found the cause of the cat’s distress.
It turns out, when she managed to sneak on board, she also managed to smuggle on three kittens,” said Hanst.
Four days after they sailed, the kittens were discovered in the ship’s machine shop.
“We thought she had given birth on the ship, but it was pointed out to us that they were too big to be only a few days old, Hanst said. We found one initially and the other two a couple hours afterwards.”
The ship’s crew immediately jumped into action.
With military precision, the sailors, none of whom had much experience bottle-feeding kittens, improvised a way to feed the little ones. They found boxes and bedding to make a temporary nest for the babies, and did everything they could to help the tiny creatures that were no bigger than the palms of their hands.
Gently tending to the kittens’ every whim, their love and care helped the abandoned babies grow into healthy little cats.
After the initial shock of being found, and feeding, the kittens were just as happy and playful as any other cute little bugger youd find anywhere else. They were a great boost to crew morale, and I loved them, said Hanst.
When the sailors docked in their next port, they transported the kittens to a local veterinarian and arranged adoptive homes.
We managed to find homes for all three kittens,” Hanst said. I talked a friend into adopting one of the kittens, the other two were taken in by a cat couple who are regular rescuers.
According to the U.S. Naval Institute, sailors and cats have a relationship that goes back thousands of years. Historians believe the Egyptians were most likely the first seafarers who saw the value of feline shipmates: in addition to offering the sailors their purry companionship on long voyages, cats killed the vermin that would have eaten their provisions, chewed through the ropes that held their sales aloft, and spread disease. Sailors often adopted cats from the foreign countries they visited, not only as souvenirs but as reminders of the beloved pets they had left at home when they began their seagoing lives. (See some great historical photos of cats and sailors)
But the story of the Navy crew and their feline stowaways isn’t the first tale of soldiers and sailors and their four-legged adoptees. Last summer, Love Meow reported on a group of cats rescued by U.S. Marines deployed in the combat zones in Afghanistan. Many other U.S. and international soldiers on the ground in the combat zones have taken it upon themselves to rescue feline “war orphans” and find them safe places to live in their home countries.[Source: Love Meow]