The Humane Society of the United States
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A happy tale, times two

Rescued from Hurricane Maria, feline brothers settle in Seattle

All Animals magazine, July/August 2018

by Kelly L. Williams

Hurricane Maria survivors Orbit and Pingüino enjoy the good life with adopter Kimi Gordy (right). The siblings not only look alike, but they share playful personalities. Photos by Kimi Gordy.

The two tuxedo kittens were just a few weeks old when they lost their mom. In the Puerto Rican town of Toa Baja, Hurricane Maria hit hard and fast. As residents fought to escape the floodwaters, which in some places rose nearly 6 feet in just half an hour, one mother cat fought to save her babies. She managed to carry two kittens up to the second story of a porch before succumbing to the flood.

When the homeowner discovered the kitties, he didn’t hesitate to help. Even as he and his community—without electricity, without running water—waited for aid, he fed and cared for the pair. After six days, Beatriz Rodriguez arrived. She works for the Humane Society of Puerto Rico, and when the homeowner asked her to take the two kittens, she agreed.

TAKE ACTION: We’re on the ground helping the pets of Puerto Rico. Help support our work!

That’s the story Kimi Gordy heard when she adopted Orbit and Pingüino in December 2017. It’s difficult to confirm some of the details, but Gordy knows for sure what happened next: The Humane Society of the United States stepped in, and with help from partner Wings of Rescue, transported the two kittens—along with 152 other cats and dogs—to Seattle Humane, one of our Shelter and Rescue Partners.

A foster family cared for the kitties until they were old enough to be neutered and placed in a permanent home: Gordy’s.

Not everyone would be willing to adopt two kittens at once, but Gordy wanted a pair. “I know that kittens really do better with a buddy,” she says. When she met them, she fell in love. “These two have such a special, gentle disposition,” she says. The pair seemed like a perfect fit, and when Gordy learned the details about their past, that sealed the deal.

A Houston native, Gordy moved to Seattle in spring 2017—and then watched a few months later as Hurricane Harvey hit her hometown. Gordy felt that adopting the two kitties was a chance to help hurricane relief efforts in her own way. Even Orbit’s name—borrowed from the Houston Astros’ mascot—is a nod to the baseball team’s relief work following Hurricanes Harvey and Maria.

  • Orbit and Pingüino just after their arrival at Seattle Humane. Photo by Jenna Pringle/Seattle Humane.

When Gordy brought the pair home, she found herself having to fulfill some surprising mom-like duties. During the first few days, Orbit would climb up and lick her cheek and mouth. Confused, Gordy consulted a veterinarian cousin.

“I learned that that’s actually something they do with their moms to say, ‘I’m really hungry!’ ” She also had to encourage them to groom themselves, and she got on the floor with toys to demonstrate how to play. Otherwise, though, the kitties’ early trauma seems to have no lasting ill effects. They’ve reached a healthy weight, honed their fine motor skills and settled in to their new life.

As Pingüino’s and Orbit’s rough beginnings fade into the past, Gordy won’t forget their story. In December, she took the pair back to Houston for a visit. “My little godchildren lost their house,” she says, so meeting kittens who had also lost so much was a poignant moment. She’s even been in touch with Rodriguez, the rescuer in Puerto Rico, after reading a letter Rodriguez sent along with the pair to explain their story. The two chat online occasionally; Rodriguez shared photos of the kittens during their days on the island, and Gordy sends photos showing them now.

As the kittens grow and their personalities develop (Orbit is the snuggler, while Pingüino is more mischievous), Gordy remains grateful to the people who brought them into her life. “For everything that has happened to them, they should be wary or insecure. But they’re not lacking in any kind of confidence, which I think is a testament to the support they’ve had,” she says. “It’s just really special that so many people were involved in their journey and made space in their hearts for these kittens.”

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