With all thanks going to a Facebook network of animal lovers who aided pets distressed by Hurricane Irma, a tiny kitten named “Pensacola” found her forever home in Pennsylvania this week.
“Pensacola,” who is a brown tabby, and nine other kittens beat their euthanasia deadline designated by Sumter County Animal Services and are now either adopted or under no-kill foster care over in central Pennsylvania.
The kittens’ wild ride was facilitated by three residents of Perry County, Pennsylvania, who drove 21 hours to Jacksonville the week after Irma touched down. They drove down with a literal boatload of dog and cat food, kitty litter, crates, toys, bowls and even more to a staging point set up by the First Coast No More Homeless Pets spay and neuter clinic.
“We didn’t go down there with a plan,” stated Jessica Mitchell. “A lot of the roads south of that were closed so we figured (Jacksonville) seemed like a good staging point for us to help.”
Mitchell, along with friends Amber Klinger and Vincent Barrick, initially only planned to drop off the items — donated by generous citizens and coworkers in their hometown — and also spend a little time caring for the roughly 40 pets under First Coast’s care.
Instead of coming home empty-handed, however, they unexpectedly voyaged east with 19 cats in tow.
“There was no reason not to take them,” Mitchell stated.
The two Pennsylvanians are part of the Hurricane IRMA & MARIA Animal Rescue Needs & Offers to Help Facebook group, which alerted them of a total of 19 cats that were in danger of losing their lives because of overcrowding brought on by all the Irma-spurred abandoned cats.
North central Florida volunteer rescue workers Simone Kuska and Jessica Tackett also happen to receive notifications from that group, which includes about 3,400 members.
Kuska reached out to the Good Samaritans who live in Pennsylvania, who agreed to rescue the cats, which were days away from being put down, according to Kuska.
“With more animals coming in and no space in any Florida rescue, we were forced to find out-of-state rescues to save them,” Kuska stated.
After Kuska found the takers, Tackett dropped everything, used her own personal crates and then drove the cats about two hours to Jacksonville, where Mitchell and her friends had set up shop.
“It was really a joint effort,” Tackett stated. “But I do that often so you tend to get used to having a couple of dozen animals in the vehicle with you.”
Before heading to Pennsylvania, Mitchell and her friends already had an entire plan hammered out for their feline litany.
They first made a pit stop in Carroll County, Maryland, which is 13 hours into their journey, to leave the seven adults with the Humane Society of Carroll County.
They actually adopted two of the cats between them.
The 10 remaining kittens, including “Pensacola,” were all taken in by Kim and Ken Corato, two satellite and fostering care volunteers who indeed house pets themselves and run the “All About Kitties” website to facilitate adoptions.
“A lot of these kittens had no vaccines, no paper trail, no nothing,” Kim Corato stated. “And a couple were real sick. But we took care of them.”
Corato went on to say that she named each of the miracle kittens after Florida destinations.
“They’re named Kissimmee, Biscayne, Naples, Orlando, Largo, Sarasota, Okeechobee, Pompano, Daytona and Pensacola.”
Pensacola and Daytona were adopted and picked up this past Wednesday. Corato noted she’s already received inquiries on many of the others.