COURTESY ESCAMILLA FAMILY
Ryan, 13, and Brooke Escamilla, 9, hold their pet cat, Spice, in this undated photo. Spice spent 19 days in a Matson storage container from Waikoloa Village on the Big Island to San Bernardino, Calif. CLICK FOR LARGE
Cat proves its 9 lives in 19-day trip at sea
The pet was locked in a Matson container headed to California
Spice has a zest for life.
How else could the 3-year-old calico cat survive for 19 days without food or water in a Matson shipping container traveling from Hawaii to California?
Before Tuesday, the last time Pamela Escamilla saw her family cat, Spice, was on June 14 in Waikoloa on the Big Island after her family had moved all its belongings into two Matson containers.
She and a neighbor locked the 20-foot container doors shut and in the rush of moving did not notice until later that Spice was missing.
At first, Escamilla thought Spice had wandered off. She is an independent cat who spends a lot of time outdoors, Escamilla said.
The family was planning to leave Spice with friends in Hawaii while moving to San Bernardino. So Escamilla asked a neighbor to watch out for Spice, thinking she would make her way back to the house.
But slowly a thought began gnawing at her.
"I didn't want to believe it," Escamilla said. "I didn't want to believe that as a possibility."
The idea that she had locked the cat, adopted as a kitten from the Humane Society, in a shipping container "devastated me."
"We called Matson. They said there was nothing they could do. The ship was already at sea," Escamilla said.
As they waited in San Bernardino for the container to arrive, the Escamilla family prepared for the worst but clung to a little bit of hope.
Escamilla remembered a story about a kitten nicknamed Matson who survived in a shipping container from Oakland, Calif., to Hawaii for 10 days without food or water.
The containers with the Escamillas' belongings finally arrived in Long Beach, Calif., on Friday. On Monday the company delivered the first container, but there was no sign of Spice.
The second container arrived Tuesday morning.
Escamilla's husband, Tony, and her father, Edward Gardner, opened the container doors.
Pamela and her two children -- Ryan, 13, and Brooke, 9 -- hung back.
"I didn't want them to be around when we opened the container," Escamilla said. "You're dreading the worst and your mind starts imagining things."
The weather had been hot, and the container had been in port for three days. Escamilla worried about what the temperature inside must have been.
When the doors opened, the first thing they noticed was that there was no smell, no indication of a dead animal.
Then Escamilla saw some cat fur. They started removing items, and Spice poked her head out from behind a bicycle.
"I kind of screamed," Escamilla said. "I couldn't talk. All I could do was point to her."
They gave Spice a little water and rushed her to a veterinarian, who said Spice appears to be in good condition considering what happened to her.
"We thought it was a miracle," Escamilla said.
On the vet's recommendation, the Escamillas are feeding Spice some homemade chicken soup to help her recover.
"She's going to be so spoiled," Escamilla said.