Navy Reservist is Reunited with the Cat he Left Behind in Iraq

Brad VanCleave, a Navy reservist from Murrieta, California was working as a government contractor at the Baghdad International Airport. He was serving his country and falling in love with a kitten is probably the last thing he expected. Now that cat, who was a baby kitten in July of 2015 when Brad found him, has made it across the ocean and will spend the rest of his life with Brad and his family, along with a dog and another cat.

Mr Meowgi
Mr Meowgi. Photo by Brad VanCleave.
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In July of 2015 Brad found a baby kitten when the kitten stuck his head out of a shipping container. Mr. Meowgi got his name because he would run up from his little shelter and meow his little head off. The kitten and his mother were well cared for at Baghdad International. He has fond memories of their time together.

“It’s kind of a neat little feeling to know that you’re arriving at your work site and you’re greeting by this meowing little baby, and he’s chasing after you. I knew if I left him there and didn’t bring him back, the chances of him being alive when I got back were pretty slim.”

Mr-Meowgi's Journey to America Photos: Brad VanCleave
Mr. Meowgi’s Journey to America Photos: Brad VanCleave

It’s unclear how many kittens the mama cat had, but Mr. Meowgi was the only one to survive. Brad and his friends fed Mr. Meowgi and his mom grilled fish and chicken, canned tuna and his favorite-BBQ beef. During the rainy season Brad and his friends built the cats a shelter from old aircraft tires and wooden pallets. Even when it wasn’t raining, mother and kitten stayed in the shelter.  Eventually the mother cat abandoned Mr. Meowgi, but Brad couldn’t bear to leave the kitten behind when he left Baghdad.

Brad contacted the SPCA International and Operation Baghdad: Pups, whose combined effort made this reunion possible. They work heroically and they deserve a lot of credit. The two agencies offer programs allowing soldiers, sailors, marines and contractors to be reunited with the animals they cared for during deployments. It took a long time for Brad and Meowgi to be reunited. Mr. Meowgi left Baghdad on March 27, where he headed to Erbil, Iraq. From there it was on to Frankfurt, Germany, then across the Atlantic to New York before catching a flight to Los Angeles. Mr. Meowgi and Brad were reunited at the Delta LAX cargo area on Friday. Of course, Mr. Meowgi was living up to his name upon arrival by meowing up a storm.

Not only is Brad happy to have his cat back with him, Brad’s son is also very excited. He’s thankful for the SPCA and Operation Baghdad Pups for their funding, logistics and especially their amazing efforts in making the reunion happen. Although there are other pets in the home, no problems are expected. Brad summed it up when he said

“People who care for cats, whether they’re on deployment, when they’re that attached to an animal, I wouldn’t do anything less than bring him back.”

For Meowgi’s complete tale and more photos, check out Brad’s Facebook page here. Thank you Brad, for sharing this happy ending with the world. It shows how cat lovers banded together to save one precious cat, who mostly likely would have died without your loyalty and love. I hope you’ll be very happy together for the next 20+ years.



11 thoughts on “Navy Reservist is Reunited with the Cat he Left Behind in Iraq”

  1. I have seen it written, “to some it is just a cat, but to that cat, this is the whole world.” It is good to read a cat story with a happy ending. Brad and Mr Meowgi – enjoy your lives together. God bless you both.


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