Kitten alive after perilous trip in Matson contain|Richard_F||10/19/04 at 22:35:10|richard_f|xx|0||Kitten alive after perilous trip in Matson container

By Vicki Viotti
Advertiser Staff Writer

There's a survivor aboard. Feed me! It's risky business being a stowaway, but for those who only weigh a few ounces to start, a trans-Pacific journey in the back of a Matson container almost always means death. Even now, after some six weeks of loving care, the miracle kitty named Matson, of course tips the scale at only a little over a pound.

For such a little ball of fluff, she's delivered more than a few knockout punches around her temporary home, Companion Animal Hospital in Kailua. Everyone's smitten with the kitten, but Julie McIntyre, administrator of the veterinary clinic, stands first in line to adopt her when she's sprung from four months of quarantine.

Not usually a pushover, McIntyre has been giving Matson her early morning feedings.

"The whole staff has been involved," she said. "They all were teasing me mercilessly, because they knew I don't take home animals. But I was a sucker for this one."

Helping cat in quarantine

To help cover Matson's care during quarantine, tax-deductible donations should be made payable to her nonprofit sponsors, Joey's Feline Friends, 239-6826, or Cat Friends, 686-2287.

One reason she's so taken is the simple fact of this kitten's survival. Matson is the only one of her litter of four to make it after evidently being trapped alone in the container somewhere on the West Coast. Hanging on without food or water for an estimated week's crossing from Oakland, and then maybe longer on the Honolulu docks, is a daunting proposition for any newborn.

The story came as a surprise to company spokesman Jeff Hull.

"I've been in this job for 14 years, and this is the first time I heard of an incident like this," Hull said. "When we ship Christmas trees, sometimes a frog will come out, or bugs or something, but that's about it."

The first to begin the job of nursing Matson was Tedra Villaroz, who runs the Kane'ohe cat shelter Joey's Feline Friends.

Villaroz and her colleague, Jennifer Kishimori, learned of the kitten from a Safeway employee who declined to give her name or identify her store. The employee had called Petland Kahala, where Villaroz staffs a weekend adoptions service, and asked for help with the newborn. The container had arrived in Honolulu on Aug. 25, the worker told them, and a truck driver heard the kitten's cries while en route to the store.

"When they opened the container there was a dead kitten at the door," Villaroz said. "At the bottom of a bunch of pallets, another dead one. Then there was one barely breathing, then the big-mouth one, our Matson, the one making the noise."

The other kitten that was still alive after the journey died almost immediately, Villaroz said, but after several touch-and-go days of tube feeding and medical care, Matson has turned the corner.

Success required some effort, though. Villaroz checked with state quarantine authorities and learned that the West Coast feline transplant either had to go through quarantine, be shipped back or ... the E-word. Euthanasia. Out of the question, Villaroz said.

But the baby still needed bottle feedings, so after calls to veterinary friends, Dr. Jenny Brundage enlisted her crew in the round-the-clock Matson watch and then, once she started to thrive, kept her on for the quarantine period.

All of this costs money, which is why Villaroz and Kishimori, who are fronting the veterinary and boarding payments, are seeking donations.

The medical staffers, meanwhile, "are astonished," Brundage said. Like all newborns, Matson lost body heat because she was separated from her mother and siblings, according to Brundage. Ironically, there was also the acute problem of heat that can accumulate in the containers.

"How she could not die of heat prostration, not die of starvation or dehydration, I'll never know," she said. "Now she's a very happy, healthy little girl with attitude. It was easy to see why she would be the one to survive."

Matson will be sprung from her friendly prison on Dec. 25, making Christmas at the McIntyres merry, indeed.

Reach Vicki Viotti at or 525-8053.