Veterinarians don’t know how 3 rescue cats survived 22 days in a van without anything to sustain them

This was a well-publicised ‘accident’ which occurred at the Edmonton Humane Society in the spring. An investigation was carried out because an error by employees of the Humane Society resulted in three male cats being left in a locked van for 22 days without food or water. They all survived and have since been adopted out to families in southern Alberta.

Edmonton Humane Society
Photo: Edmonton Humane Society
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It was treated as a serious event by the Humane Society resulting in a criminal charge against one of the employees of using or permitting animals to be in distress and with failing to provide adequate food and water to animals.

In summary, the investigation found carelessness. Two employees picked up 19 cats and four dogs at a Grande Prairie animal facility on March 27th. The animals were loaded onto a van but the animals were not cross-checked with paperwork.

As I understand it, at the point of delivery of the animals at Edmonton at 4:30 pm it was found that three files (the paperwork) were found with no accompanying animals.

The employees concerned decided that because of previous mismatches of paperwork to animals, the same problem existed in this instance. This resulted in the 3 cats being left inside the van until April 18th when they were found as the vehicle as being prepared for the next trip to Grande Prairie.

The vets were unsure how the cats had survived. They decided that either (a) the cats drank condensation from inside the van (this is the usual explanation but I (Michael) have not seen any evidence to support this theory) or (b) the cats lowered their heart rates to allow them to survive on body fat.

The Humane Society changed their protocols to prevent a recurrence. The remarkable aspect of this case is the amazing feline ability to survive without water or food for 22 days. It has happened before under different circumstances but not connected with any rescue organisation. No one then had a good explanation either.

P.S. The Edmonton Humane Society engaged former city councillor Kim Krushell to oversee an independent investigation. Source: Edmonton Sun.

2 thoughts on “Veterinarians don’t know how 3 rescue cats survived 22 days in a van without anything to sustain them”

  1. I have read of cats who stowed away/got accidentally shut in, inside metal shipping containers, surviving long ocean voyages by licking condensation to survive.

    Small rodents proliferate on ships and some containers may have holes small enough for mice to get in. Insects could also be a form of food.

    Mice are known to gnaw their way into vehicles via softer rubber/plastic light and electrical fittings.

    22 days survival without fluid or food is astonishing. No wonder the vets are perplexed

    • Good idea. There could have been something inside the van to eat like insects. However, cats are amazingly durable and there are a lot of stories of cats surviving longer than 22 days in similar environments.


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