Yesterday we brought you the tale of 13 chihuahuas whisked from near certain death in Los Angeles to safe harbor in Maine. Today we share the story of an even longer flight to safety - from a military base in Japan to New Jersey.
The first thing to know: Marines never leave their comrads in the battlefield. And so it was that a young Marine based at Okinawa, who was told he could no longer feed a mother cat and her three kittens outside his apartment, pledged to find them a safe haven.
For the three kittens that meant flying nearly 8,000 miles from Okinawa, Japan to Tabby's Place in Ringoes, NJ.
The unidentified Marine began feeding a mother cat and her kittens outside his apartment in 2009. Earlier this year his housing agency ordered him to stop feeding the felines. Each day the cats grew weaker and the Marine said he could not live with the idea of them starving to death. Determined to save the cats, the Marine donated $1,000 to have the cats rescued, sterilized and given medical treatment.
And then he learned the shelter housing the cats was to be demolished in mid-2010, at which time the cats would be euthanized by mass gassing.
The Marine contacted the Okinawan American Animal Rescue Society (OAARS), and the American Military community rallied to the rescue. Volunteers contacted Tabby's Place, a cage-free, no-kill sanctuary for unwanted cats, which was about to embark on its first international rescue. Here's what happened next:
Following a flurry of activity on both sides of the Pacific, plans were made for the three lucky kittens to make their trip to safety. On April 24th, the three tabbies braved a 34-hour flight, and were welcomed into the loving arms of Tabby's Place staff in New Jersey. The team at Tabby's Place has honored the cats' Japanese heritage – and their remarkable American and Okinawan rescuers – by naming them Miyagi, Kimiko and Pikachu.
All three cats are now healthy, growing in confidence, and available for adoption at Tabby's Place. Their mother, Katana, has been taken in by OAARS volunteers Amanda Nemeth and Air Force Staff Sergeant Andrew Nemeth, stationed at Kadena AFB in the 18 EMS squadron.
"We're completely smitten with the cats," Tabby's Place development director, Angela Townsend told USAToday, adding the Japanese kitties are now up for adoption along with 90 other cats living there. "We'd love to keep them together if possible because they are really bonded with each other."