Missing cat found in shipping container after 49 days

Pippa is recovering from her ordeal after spending 49 days in a shipping container and traveling over 1,700 miles. The photo above was taken after she was found. Extraordinary.

Forty-nine days trapped in a container with no water and no food might be a world record for a cat. I have heard of a month before but this is a different league and this is Australia. The container was transported across the interior of Australia. It must have been stiflingly hot in that container.

The picture above is of Pippa before she being trapped and enduring her journey. She definitely looks thinner in the first photo but you would not think she had been through the ordeal.


Pippa went missing from her home in Darwin, Australia and ended up in Brisbane. Pippa became trapped in a neighbour’s container when they moved. The journey commenced on Feb 20th and ended with the container being opened on April 10th.

When the neighbors arrived and opened the container they called Pippa’s owners to say:

“Hi, this is Jason, we’ve found your cat in our container,”

Once opened the container contained some messy signs of a cat in distress: poo, urine, vomit and hair. What made Pippa vomit, I ask myself. Perhaps she tried eating inedible objects. Perhaps it was the heat.

Pippa has recovered. Unsurprisingly she suffered from dehydration and weight loss. Her recovery took place at Animal Welfare League of Old under vet Heday Nakayimato. She is now at a foster home.

The next hurdle is to get her home. It is a 1,700 mile flight and flying is stressful for cats. Pippa’s owner Rebecca is naturally keen to get her back especially as it is around the time of her daughter’s birthday.

Internationally, it is not that uncommon for a cat to be trapped in a removals container. We don’t hear of cats dying in them but it must happen. I guess the moral is that people should be vigilant when moving or when their neighbors are moving. They should keep their cat inside or in one of the rooms. Cats will naturally investigate a container full of household items. It is ideal territory for a cat to explore.

Cats are one of the few species to be able to endure these lengthy periods without food and water under very hot conditions because their wild ancestors lived in very dry conditions.

Source: Missing cat found in shipping container after 49 days | Life With Cats

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Container Cats

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.

Container Cats
Container Cats. Photo by Glen. Is there a cat onboard?

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.

Original Flickr photo

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