Adopting a rescue cat that is 3,000 miles away

Is it practical and sensible to adopt a rescue cat, which by chance, is 3,000 miles from where you live? Is it a folly to try to do this or is it heroic? An heroic effort to adopt an unwanted cat at any cost, almost. What an effort! How commonplace is this in America?

There would have to be a gigantic transportation effort. It is the sort of transportation challenge that many cat breeders don’t entertain mainly because it is too stressful and hazardous for the cat and what about the cost? Also arguably there is no need for this sort of long distance transportation because there should be someone who is local or certainly within a reasonable distance. For rescue cats that doesn’t apply, it seems. Are there guidelines on cat transportation amongst cat rescue organisations?

long distance rescue cat adoption
Long distance rescue cat adoption. Map from Wikimedia Commons (modified)
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Well, a person living near the Pacific coast in California tried to adopt a rescue cat that was with a foster carer in North Carolina, which is the other side of the United States, almost 3,000 miles away. In this instance the kitten/cat was flown from Gaston County, North Carolina to LA, California (note: the cat was actually flown from Wilmington, North Carolina – sorry but not much difference). The last leg of the journey to Santa Rosa, California was probably planed to be by road.

The super long distance adoption failed when the 8 month old kitten, Cali, escaped the transportation container at Santa Clarita which is a suburb of Los Angeles (correction: Cali escaped a property where the person transporting the cat was staying – a “condo”). Cali had been transported across the entire breadth of America from East to West but tragically the last leg could not be made because she has gone, lost and cannot be found.

Tell me, was this:

  • (a) an adoption too far, too difficult or too risky or
  • (b) a tremendous effort that unfortunately failed to place a vulnerable and precious rescue cat in a good home in sunny California?

Original story

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

72 thoughts on “Adopting a rescue cat that is 3,000 miles away”

  1. My cat of 6 years died tragically Jan 12. 2014. It was devastating. The next morning I went on Facebook to look at the photos I had posted of him. At the top of my news feed was a cat so identical to him I had to look several times. My cat tended to over groom and often his tail and back end were missing fur. So was the cat on my news feed. I clicked the photo. For more info only to find out she was all the way in St.Louis MO. She had ended up in the shelter after her owner died tragically. We had both lost companions. I simply commented how I wished I could make her mine under her photo. OPKIT saw this and sprung into action. In a week Sophie was here in my house in Florida all the way from St. Louis. Sophie had so many changes and so much traveling it took her some time to adjust. But I can tell you she is happy and well adjusted. Without OPKIT I would not have my So-So pretty girl.

  2. Hello. I am the founder of OPKIT, the group that rescued Cali, and I just saw this conversation. It has come to my attention recently that there is some confusion over what exactly happened to Cali, and since the transport company that lost her is not named in the article, but OPKIT is, some people are confusing us with them, and I want to set the record straight. First of all, Cali had no chance to live if she had not been rescued, and if this adopter had not stepped up, she would have ended up in a gas chamber, which is a barbaric and horrible way for an animal to die. This adoption was her only hope. Long distance adoptions happen all the time in the U.S., and many times people who live in areas that do not employ such horrible methods to euthanize animals feel compelled to want to help the ones in those shelters, even if they are thousands of miles away. The shelter that Cali was in is a particularly bad one, one of the few left in the U.S. that still uses the gas chamber. The group that transported, and lost, Cali, The Underground Railroad Rescued Kitty Network, transports many cats, usually without incident, and the person who was supposed to keep Cali overnight took her outside in a harness and leash because Cali would not use the litter box right away. Cali then slipped her leash and ran away. It was an incredibly stupid and senseless thing to do. For the first few weeks after her escape, several people from the URRKN and OPKIT were out there on a regular basis, searching, but she has still not been found, and at this point is doubtful that she ever will be.

    1. Thanks, Jamie, for a very interesting and helpful update and additional information. The outcome is a shame. A lot of effort went into helping Cali. I admire you guys a lot for the work you do.

    2. The search is still ongoing, with local people using a livetrap and trail cam in the yard of a homeowner, in an area where Cali may have been seen. And there are many volunteers checking local shelters and rescues, Craigs List, etc many times a day. Another point of clarification: Cali was flown, IN CABIN, by a lady from CA who had to fly to NC on business. She carried with her one rescued cat TO NC (who is very happily in his new home), and I handed Cali over to her to fly back to CA. Cali was able to ride with her carrier up on the empty middle seat and was given treats and talked to and petted all the way across the US. I really appreciate the concern everyone has about costs and stress to animal, and the availability of cats locally, but sometimes you just look into one’s eyes and you can’t look away.

  3. I agree on the expense to drive a cat somewhere, but on a plane there are passengers so the cat really doesn’t add any expense.

    And why hasn’t anyone asked me how I ended up networking and looking for a misplaced pig 🙂

    1. I am curious about the pig, Elisa, but not surprised. I was participating on a thread recently about “odd” (to outsiders) rescues and I think we all decided the person who rescued a grasshopper with a broken leg was the winner.

  4. OK here are some figures to work out in your head Michael. Greenville County, SC has roughly 467,000 residents with 70% of them living in a family structure.

    Greenville County Animal Care Services takes in roughly 18000-20000 dogs and cats per year. The average cat, give a 15 year life span means 180000 cats available for homes thru the Greenville shelter over a 15 year period. Since we don’t know how many people make up a family, lets just say there are 200000 homes available. This means almost every home would have to adopt a cat once every 15 years and while we all love cats, others may want a dog or live in an environment where a cat or dog isn’t welcome.

    There will always be more cats than homes until spay/neuter ordinances are passed saying a pet must be made sterile.

    1. There will always be more cats than homes until spay/neuter ordinances are passed saying a pet must be made sterile.

      There is a lot of talk about that and some places are already doing it. Australia leads in this field. America is beginning to get a taste for legislation that forces cat owners to improve standards. Wait and see.

  5. I think one misconception here is if you’re a long way from where an animal went missing you don’t care about that animal. While you may not be able to go and physically search, social media is getting word about these lost pets out there so people are looking. The local news stations are even doing stories on missing pets now because there’s such an interest with people wanting to help.

    I got in the middle of a situation early this week where a dog was frozen to death in Anderson and another dog was there and still alive. I put out a desperate message on Facebook that had over 85 comments. Eventually the dog was found and removed from the property. What I’m saying here is that although I couldn’t get out and search in 10 degree temp at a distance an hour and a half from home I cared enough to stay on that thread, contact those who could help and just keep sharing until it all came together.

    This is what happens when you do a missing cat or dog story. The story is shared to everyone a person knows in that area. I know at least 4 animals have been found because of my articles. It’s probably tough to grasp unless you’re right in the middle of it.

    1. I agree and disagree.

      I think one misconception here is if you’re a long way from where an animal went missing you don’t care about that animal

      The adopter is not going to care as much if she can’t do anything to help on the ground and she has chosen her cat off the internet. There will less of an emotional connection.

      As to FB being an effective way to get volunteers together to find and help an individual cat or dog….yes, it can be excellent.

  6. I would be surprised if we hear from Kelly again.
    I don’t think she has any idea where Cali is and no follow-up was done.
    My hope is that Elisa isn’t closely involved with this flaky person, because I have a lot of respect for her amd Laura.

    1. I tend to stay involved long enough to get info on what needs to be reported and then move on to the next case. I do ask to be contacted if a cat or dog is found. In an adoption I ask to be contacted with forever home info.

      I work mostly with Greenville area rescues and dogs and cats in the upstate area. The Community Pet Project, Freedom Fences and Abby’s Animal Angels are my main leads. Also keep check on the Greenville shelter.

      I also get lots of emails asking for help. At this time I’m also looking for a misplaced pig. I simply can’t keep up with everything but I do what I can.

  7. That’s really sad, all that effort wasted and the poor cat lost God knows where, if only someone nearer had taken her in and if only the would be adopter had looked closer to home for a cat, of which there must be thousands waiting for homes or death 🙁 I know the people who try to place cats go to a lot of trouble and it must be a nightmare trying to save cats from the gas chamber, I really respect them for all they do but surely such a long journey is too much for cats who after all don’t know they are going to a safe place and must be terrified at being confined for so long.

  8. So in the end did Cali get a home or is she lost somewhere? What an awful long journey and how sad that there was no one nearer that would give the poor creature a home. I hate the way cats are treated in the US, it must be heart-breaking to be a cat lover and be struggling against so much hatred, apathy and ignorance and to hear of thousands of cats being so unfeelingly put to death by gassing.

    1. At this moment in time Cali is lost as far as I know. Cali could be anywhere or nowhere (dead). That is a sad situation bearing in mind all the effort.

      I wonder how many cats are lost or die in transit. It appears that in the US lots of cats are shipped. It seems there is a big difference between the UK and US in terms of shipping rescue cats.

  9. I think I may be a little more relaxed on this issue than some.
    I can’t always figure out why people do some of the things they do.
    Sometimes there just isn’t a tangible answer. I’m not privvy to the workings of their minds. So, why this woman adopted Cali from that distance instead of getting a cat locally is anybody’s guess.
    For me, even after weighing some of the hazzards of an adoption like this, I’m happy that Cali got a home. At that moment, another life was saved. Traveling beats the hell out of sitting in a cage waiting to be killed.

      1. I think you are right about something being wrong, Michael.
        I was willing to support these very strange rehoming methods until Kelly blew that all to pieces with her bashing. Where in the hell is Cali now? And, what kind of follow up is done?

  10. What you are witnessing is the result of “over saturation” for over a decade now. Anyone who wants cats already has their limit, even challenging local laws on how many can be kept legally, responsibly, and safely. The households that want or have room for any more cats today are few to non-existent in most areas. Hence the desperate acts to try to find a home for a cat anywhere, no matter the cost. No-Kill shelters are filled to capacity and are no longer accepting intakes and TNR colonies are now so rampant that people are poisoning and shooting them to get rid of them. If you don’t want that cat that you found to end-up in a kill shelter or be poisoned or shot to death, then you’ll have to find the last few remaining homes that are willing to take them. Those too will eventually disappear as people start to wise-up over what is actually happening.

    1. Some people would disagree with you because they would say that there are enough homes for shelter cats because the number of people looking to adopt a cat annually is greater than the number of cats at shelters annually. It is a question of organisation, marketing and cooperation to ensure that the adopter meets the cat. I still tend to think that a 3,000 adoption is too far and unnecessary.

  11. Ruth aka Kattaddorra

    I find it shocking that no one in the area where Cali was needing a home would adopt her, an 8 month old kitten, put through the stress of that long journey. Cats hate being confined, most hate travelling, no wonder she took the chance to escape when she was able to.
    I also find it shocking that so many cats are murdered in gas chambers and can’t help wondering why there is not a huge education/neutering campaign by cat lovers across the entire country.
    Still, knowing that the mutilation of cats by declawing is still legal there it seems that there are not enough people there fighting for cats at all.
    Michael says it’s a sad state of affairs at Rescue Shelters, I say it’s a sad state of affairs for cats altogether and I feel deeply sorry for the people who do love cats and care that such awful things are happening, I’d go insane with sorrow if this was happening in our country.

    1. Thanks Ruth. I think the story highlights a kind of desperation about rehoming rescue cats. Why is one cat being transported 3,000 miles to be rehomed and saved while millions of others are deliberately killed at shelters. It just seems bizarre to me. It is great to save a life and rehome a cat – really wonderful and a great effort but I feel there should be more focus and effort (and coordination amongst many organisations) on the bigger problems of stopping the mass killings.

      1. Ruth aka Kattaddorra

        Exactly Michael! If people can go to all that trouble and expense to transport one cat so far, why can’t more be done on behalf of ALL cats!

          1. I know there are many tremendous fights currently fought here in the US as well as around the world re: spay/neuter education and no-kill shelters. There was even one here in my state of NC yesterday, starting with eliminating the use of gas chambers and progressing toward no-kill shelters. But we can’t just tell those currently IN shelters that “Sorry, can’t help you. Got to work toward the long-term goal.”

            1. Clarification there – it was a protest to educate the public and then speakers at the commissioners meeting later.

    2. Gaston County tries but so many cats never make it out. One problem is there’s an over supply of cats in the south and many in the north have a shortage of cats. Rescues also have to factor in and deal with shelters who will work with them on pickup schedules. Gaston has a lot of supporters just as Greenville does. But it will never ever be enough to save them all.

        1. Between the euthanasia lists and now all the dogs being neglected and starved and the police and courts failing to punish those responsible it’s a nightmare. The toughest thing to adjust to is realizing you do what you can and try to save them one at a time. Each save is a victory. If you think off the failures you’d go nuts.

      1. This comment helps immensely I think in understanding what is going on here. We all want to see as much done as possible. Living in the U.S. and having spent many summers in the South, I understand better than some. I needed to be reminded. Thanks for emphasizing these issues; it helps in absorbing all of the information open- mindedly.

        1. I have been told be various individuals in the states that have effective spay/neuter PROGRAMS (not just laws but programs to help the pet owners) that they do actually have to “import” cats and dogs because the birth rates there have dropped so dramatically.

            1. I just read last night that the city of San Francisco is also importing cats for adoptions. They have not just a TNR program but an active recruitment program asking everyone to bring in any “community” cat, stray or feral, and the cat will be sterilized and returned to its previous location. Result? They need kittens!

  12. Kelly Powers Fitzpatrick

    Dear Michael,

    I live in Virginia and I am a member of OPKIT, the group that rescued Cali from the shelter in North Carolina.

    After reading your piece above, it is obvious that not only did you fail to carefully read the article about Cali written by Elisa Taylor, but you also have no clue about animal rescue in the United States so PLEASE TAKE NOTE OF THE FOLLOWING:

    First, the California resident did not, as you stated, “try to adopt a rescue that was with a foster”. Cali was with the foster because she needed a place to stay while her trip to California was arranged.

    Second, the cat was not “flown from Gaston County, North Carolina to LA, California.” She was rescued in Gaston County, then flown from Wilmington, NC to Los Angeles.

    Third, there was no “gigantic transportation effort”. There are thousands of animal rescue transport groups in America, where animal loving volunteers spend their own time and money transporting rescued animals. One of these groups arranged Cali’s transport and similar transports are taking place across the U.S. everyday ~ as I said, these are animal loving volunteers and they do not charge fees. And yes, they all must follow strict guidelines and protocols set forth by their individual transport organizations.

    Fourth: You stated that Cali “escaped the transportation container” ~ You are wrong AGAIN. That is not what happened. Did you even read Elisa’s article?

    Fifth: I don’t know how England handles animals in its shelters, but here in the US, shelters KILL hundreds of thousands of innocent cats and dogs every year because they don’t have the space or resources to keep them and there are not enough people willing to adopt them.

    In fact, many rural shelters, exactly like the one Cali was in, still use gas chambers where they stuff in as many live cats and dogs as they can fit at once, then close the door and gas them to death. The kill rate is these rural shelters is often up to 98%, so while sit on your high horse and scoff at someone who chose to rescue a kitten 3,000 miles away, I will embrace anyone who rescues any animal, anywhere, anytime. Read the original article. Do some research. Get your facts straight.

    1. Hi Kelly, thanks for visiting and correcting me – it is appreciated. I am sorry I made a mistake but I read the article a few times and what I got from it was what I wrote. I did check it and I guess the original article is not quite as clear as it might be.

      During her overnight stay in Santa Clarita, Cali escaped from the transporter’s condo…

      Although I know what a “condo” is (block of apartments or houses on leasehold) I misread that as an escape from a transporter’s container. This is because the word “condo” is also used in America for companion animal furniture. It is a word that is used in an animal context.

      It is an easy mistake to make and actually irrelevant because the only relevancy is the fact that the cat escaped while under the care of the transporter.

      Also, the detail of exactly where Cali was transported from is not important in the context of this article. The whole article is about the distance travelled to adopt a cat. The article is about that. Also I am asking a question not making a statement. I am asking if it is financially viable and sensible. I think that is a decent question.

      I know about the kill rates at US shelters and I know quite a lot about animal rescue in the USA. Please don’t make assumptions. There are lots of articles on PoC about this. But for the high kill rates it would surely be strange to transport a cat 3000 miles for adoption. There are also issues of the environment. Transportation pollutes the environment. Far better to adopt locally. I am just asking questions. I am entitled to do that.

      I agree volunteers do the transporting but there are costs involved, costs of time, fuel and vehicle maintenance etc. Could it be better utilised? It is valid to question these things and if the 3,000 mile adoption is sensible and a good thing (and I do state that is a possibility) then it highlights the sad state of rescue cats at shelters.

      Finally, I have one more question: Why didn’t the person adopting Cali adopt from a local shelter?

      1. Kelly Powers Fitzpatrick

        Michael ~ I pointed the other things out to you because they were not correct ~ Misstating the facts takes away from the point you are trying to make. So, to address your issue regarding a 3,000 mile adoption, it is only something a cat lover would understand. Have you not read the articles about soldiers in Afghanistan, Iraq, other foreign countries where US soldiers have bonded with a stray cats, then taken tremendous steps to have them rescued and flown back home to the US with them when their tours of duty were over? Do you know what they have to go through to accomplish that? The process doesn’t matter!!! The only thing that matters is they cared enough to save a cat’s life and give it a loving home. It is unfortunate that you are not a cat person Michael. You are really missing out on a kind of love that you can’t begin to imagine.

        1. Excuse me, Kelly. But Michael IS a cat lover. The soldiers you speak of have already had a relationship with the cats amd have bonded. They just didn’t see a picture and decide to have that cat brought to the USA.
          Kelly, I’m sure Michael will approve when I say that diverse points of views are always welcomed here; but, bashing and insults are not.
          Please regroup and reword your comment in a civil way.

            Do you know? Do you care?
            Please outline your follow-up for us for our peace of mind.

    2. Michael- I see what Kelly is saying and I have always thought these long distance rescues are a good thing. There is a whole network of pilots, drivers, you name it, who are ready to help so it’s not such a big deal.

      Don’t forget that a home is better than no home. At least with the internet this is now possible – better than nothing at all inmy opinion. I understand you concerns but in the US it is a matter of life and death. I would have brought Vincent all the way to Switzerland if need be.

      1. I agree that, Marc. I just want to ask the question whether the energies could be better directed. All this activity is for people and cats but I am not sure they as pure in motive as you are. “I want that cat because I love that cat” as opposed to “I want to save a cat even if he is 3000 miles away”. What are the motives in this case?

        1. Michael I understand, but that money spent could always be used differently. I mean if you want to have a cat who is far a way then so be it. Sometimes you just see one you pity more for example. There was one cat a few hours away from me in France – little black lady cat called Nora who nobody wanted for over a year and a half. I didn’t have my apartment yet then so I told them as soon as I got a place to live she could come live with me if nobdy took her yet.

          I am bringing a cat here again from Slovenia- ok I know her a bit, but still, I can see how the distance thing and social media would result easily in a long distance adoption. It’s very personal and all cats and their stories are different. You can want to save a cat you read about who is far away and about to be killed before you manage to get your jacket and on and head down to the local shelter. Things just happenin funny ways. The money spent is being spent on a cat so I’m good with that. IF the person adopted locallly AND donated the difference in cost for travel expenses then that would be really great but that isn’t how it goes I guess.

          1. I agree Marc. I am being tough and I am questioning things not not making firm statements. I believe we have to ask ourselves tough questions because we are not doing a good enough job (overall) in caring for the domestic cat. While healthy cats are being killed unnecessarily we have to look at ourselves in the mirror and be honest.

  13. I found your article immediately when I checked my email. Elisa, I don’t understand why folks who feel they’ve got to adopt across such physical distances when they have to know that the cat/kitten is going to suffer physically, psychologically, fearfully from such trauma as plane travel and transports from stranger after stranger. ? Why can’t these caring adoption parents go get the helpless, scared little critter themselves? or send a caring friend/relative to do it? If it is to save money then common sense would dictate-you would think- that you do your research and find someone in that area to adopt, maybe sponsoring the kitten/cat in the meantime. So many strangers, strange smells, loud noises, fast movements, pain in the ears, dehydration from plane flight, fear, loss of appetite, nothing familiar/safe, it goes on and on, I should think.

    1. I’m terrified to hear of animals flying after so many being lost by the airlines. I think the adoptions balance out because a lot of cats at the shelter where we did rescue in Greenville are sent to New Jersey, Maine, New York, etc. The same with dogs. Personally I’d want to meet the cat before paying a lot of money to have it flown to me or anything. Which would defeat the purpose because the person could take it when they left. The cat Noir that I reported on who looked so much like our Sealy was from North Carolina and ended up with a wonderful owner in Arizona.

      1. Elisa, do you have figures of the average distance cats and dogs are transported from shelters to their adopters home? It seems that transporting long distances is accepted as normal. Is that correct?

        1. I don’t have stats but an 8-10 hour drive is fairly common. Especially up the I-95 corridor that’s a straight shot from south to north.

          1. Here’s a problem in adopting a cat that is a 10 hour drive away. You get to see your new cat after a 10 hour drive. You are not totally happy. Neither is your new cat. You adopt your new anyway because you don’t want all the effort to be for nothing. The journey time can put pressure on the adopter.

            1. Most of our new cats have hid the first few days in a new place so it didn’t matter anyway. We always quarantine a new cat with the necessities and give it time to get adjusted, even to us.

    2. I don’t think aircraft, airports and cats go together. As you say for a cat the whole experience must be frightening. My cat sh*ts himself going to the vet about 3 miles away 😉

      Isn’t there a better way to adopt a rescue cat and couldn’t all the resources, time and effort be put to better use? That is the question I am asking.

    1. Thanks Elisa. I hope I am being fair in asking a question whether it is sensible to adopt a shelter cat from 3,000 miles away. People should not take umbrage. I am not making a statement.

  14. I believe that with so many shelters having their own page on Facebook that distance is no longer an obstacle. Transport costs aren’t as much as you’d think, or donations are taken up to pay for transport.

    The problem seems to be human carelessness. I know a lot about that topic because our little dog Darla was an escape artist. So is our cat Gizzy. It’s important to always watch the door to be sure no one runs out.

    Most of the lost cat cases now fall into the category of “Gee I should have known better than to do that.” In other words, it’s not the cats fault.

    I heard a joke awhile back that people in the UK believe 200 miles is a long distance while people is the U.S. believe 200 years of history is a long time. There are transports from Greenville that go straight up the I-95 corridor to the northern states where there aren’t as many pets available. One several months back offered to transport for $45.

    1. Good point Elisa. Americans do have a different concept of what a long way is to the Brits. However, it does seem questionable whether adopting a cat on the other side of America is sensible. And the super effort involved – care and dedication from the volunteers transporting Cali – is contrasted with the casual mass euthanasia of the other less lucky shelter cats. It is odd. It seems uncoordinated.

      Why didn’t this lady adopt a cat from a local shelter?

      1. Because the adopter saw Cali’s photo and fell in love. When that happens distance doesn’t matter. I imagine you think it strange that’s local residents would allow acat to be euthanized but someone 3000 miles away is will to go to expense of adopting a cat they’ve never met. That’s just how much social media affects things these days.

        1. I agree – and I often read of successful long distance adoptions on the cat blogosphere.

          I therefore think this was very unfortunate bad luck. Very sad – makes me very sad.

        2. Good point and I am sympathetic to that argument but..can you fall in love with a cat photo? How many meetings between dating couples have failed after choosing a person on a dating agency website? It is better, much better to let the cat choose in person.

          The best adoptions are when the cat just turns up. Sarah Hartwell has adopted cats that way. I am the same.

    2. Transport costs aren’t as much as you’d think, or donations are taken up to pay for transport.

      But what about the environment? It is like buying tomatoes from Israel. Lovely tomatoes but the air is polluted by jet engines and car engines etc..

      And the reason why gas (for cars and planes) is cheap in the USA is because of fracking which destroys large areas of landscape and we don’t know what the long term effect will be. Apparently fracking can cause earthquakes.

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