Cat Survives Month in a Box – What to Do if It Happens to You

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A cat owned by a former Navy family who moved from Virginia to Hawaii survived a month in a moving box during transit.

Yes, a month. In a box. Without food and water. And she lived.

Mee Moowe the cat went missing during the family’s pack out back in September. The Barths had left the Navy but missed the cut-off for moving on the military dime after their ETS date. So they hired private movers to help with their move home to Hawaii. When the cat went missing they delayed their move a few days waiting for her to turn up. When she didn’t, they left without her.

Fast forward 36 days to the boxes arriving at their new Hawaii home on Oct. 17. Owner Ashley Barth heard a quick “meow” from one of the boxes, opened it up and lo behold there was their cat — thin, could barely walk and eyes crusted shut, but alive.

Since the cat hadn’t yet had the required pre-Hawaii move vaccines, it’s now going through the pricey $4,000 three month quarantine on the island. Mee Moowe had only had one of her two required rabies shots and was to stay behind with Barth’s mom and dog, also going through the shot process, until they were cleared to come over.

Barth said the entire process of getting Mee Mowe read to come while stateside, no quarantine necessary, and shipping her would’ve only cost the family $500. Instead they are paying $4,000 on the island thanks to the packing mistake. And so far the shippers, New World International, has refused to help them pay for it.

A New World International manager, Edwin Ooms, who Barth had worked with on the situation did not return our calls for comment.

Barth said that she is “furious” her cat was packed.

“She is a miracle and I’m so grateful that she’s alive, but it makes me sick thinking what she went through,” she said.

This story had a happy ending for Mee Moowe, but that is not the case for most pets that accidentally get packed — and it does happen. Even though the Barth’s move was not funded through the Defense Department (proving that horrible moves happen on the “outside,” too) I’ve heard about military-owned cats packed (and, as a result killed) in storage in box springs and a boa constrictor falling out of a couch as it was moved for wrapping.

The packers assured Barth on moving day that all the animals would be safe and that there was “no reason to put her in a cage,” Barth said. And while moving officials do recommend pets be locked in a safe room or taken out of the house so they are safe, Barth thought she had worked with the packers to make sure everything was fine.

Pets are sneaky and keeping them safe during the move can be hard. But should the packers be responsible for making sure they ship your dishes, not your dog?

We wanted to know — if your pet is accidentally packed on moving day, are the movers hired for you by the DoD financially responsible?

“From a Defense Personal Property Program Household Goods movement perspective only, there is no claim the member or the government could make from the carrier for the loss of the member’s pet,” Mitch Chandrin, a spokesman for the Surface Deplyment and Distribution Command, which oversees military moves.  “Throughout the household goods move planning process, we remind service members … to prepare for the move accordingly, to include properly caring for their pets on pack and move days.”

But just because you can’t file a damage claim (or something like it) through the government for your pet, that doesn’t mean you can’t do other things — like sue the moving company. Nothing you sign when you pack-out blocks you from taking them to court or seeking other types of solutions, Chandrin said.

“While there is no entitlement for the government to reimburse the member for shipment of pets, and thus no claim the member can make for losing a pet in this manner … the member is free to pursue all available remedies,” he said. “This can include personally discussing the situation with the mover for possible resolution outside of the regular government claims process or investigating other remedies available to them under the law.”

Have you ever had pet drama during a pack-out? What did you do?

About the Author

Amy Bushatz
Amy is the editor in chief of Military.com’s spouse and family blog SpouseBuzz.com. A journalist by trade, Amy also covers spouse and family news for Military.com where she is the managing editor of spouse and family content. An Army wife and mother of two, Amy has been featured as a subject matter expert on CNN.com, NPR, Fox News, NBC, CBS, ABC and BBC as well as in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. Follow her on twitter @amybushatz.
  • Mary R.

    They are paying $4000 to keep a cat? ARE THEY INSANE?! I would venture they are blowing through emergency savings to pay for it, or maxing a credit card to do so, and if they don’t already have that savings or room on a credit card, hitting up a relative or relief society to pay for it. As well as having to pay for their own move because they missed the cut off to get the military to pay for it. Real smart people there.

    • Ituri

      Seriously, who misses a military funded move? I’ve never even heard of such a thing, since extensions are pretty common.

    • Silvia

      a pet is part of the family, I would spend even more for mine!

    • Erin F

      First of all, it’s none of your business how people handle their finances. Second, you obviously have never had a pet you loved. Pets are family members and it can be as devastating to lose a pet as it is to lose a person. Grow a heart.

  • Ituri

    As someone who has been through many, many military moves with pets, I lay this on the family and implore them to learn their lesson. Our pets are taken care of BEFORE any move. They are in kennel, or in transit to a safe house, or being kept by loved ones. They are NEVER in the house during the Big Move. It’s absurd to think they just left the cat in the house for that. The movers probably never even saw her, she hid from the strangers in her house in a moving box, and that was that. Poor thing. The least they can do now is make sure she’s safe from their own irresponsibility.

  • Cats have been known to survive a month without food. Cats are pretty amazing in this regard. Water is more of a problem but this one survived probably with minimal moisture:

    “A cat trapped in a cargo crate without food or water seems to have survived a 35-day sea voyage from China to the US.”