Every now and then we read about cats that have been trapped in ship’s containers; the box shape constructions that are used to ship all manner of goods from…China. Where else? Or other countries. It seems that cats are wandering around a port looking for scraps of food and then find temporary shelter in an empty container and then the container is shut. Perhaps empty containers are sometimes shipped to other ports.
Invariably the journey is long and the time before the container is opened can be several weeks. I have read of a number of stories of cats who have survived these journeys. I am sure there are many more that have not survived and which go unnoticed by the news agencies.
The latest is a kitten from Shanghai, China who survived a three week journey to California. He was found on July 11 and is now 5 months of age. So he was a young guy when he was trapped but adult. Not quite a kitten anymore, to be honest. He appeared to be dead when found, all curled up and thin, unable to walk or talk. But he came around with plenty of TLC from an animal hospital in Los Angeles.
He has been given the name “Hello” in Chinese, “Ni Hao”. He still has a wobbly gait but is otherwise himself and healthy, it appears.
How do cats survive without food and water in a container for three weeks in the pitch black?
The key, as I see it, is not the lack of food (because of food reserves in the cat’s body including muscle if needed) but their ability to survive without water for long periods. This stems from the wild cat ancestor, the African wildcat. Other wild cat species have specialised in drinking very little or no water, getting it from prey only (the sand cat).
The domestic cat is very durable in that regard. Also there may be some water available to a cat trapped in a container. This may be due to condensation on the inside walls of the container.
If the air inside the container is warm and the outside air is cold overnight the moisture in the air inside the container could condense on the walls and run down the side of the container where a cat could lick it off. If that process provided even the barest minimum amount of water for a while it would sustain a cat that, as mentioned, is already very durable and which requires low levels of water anyway.
Well, that is my theory. I have not seen anyone else make an attempt at explaining how a domestic cat can survive under these conditions.
Incidentally, it seems that people can survive for a few days to about a week or so depending on the individual, without water. But after three weeks it seems that anyone deprived of water for that period would be dead.
Ni Hao is a bicolor cat. He is what I call a Van-type cat meaning he has Turkish Van type markings on his head, body and tail. He is mainly white. This sort of coat is very typical of stray cats in the warmer climates.
There were about 80 human applicants to care for him and he has gone to a lucky person(s). Ni Hao is lucky too. He is also very durable but then so are all domestic cats. His story is not unique.