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Pumpkin clocks up the most air miles by a cat.

January 2007

Late in 2006, Pumpkin, who as her name suggests, is an orange tabby got on to what should have been a routine flight from Manchester, England to Washington DC. Her trip was as cargo in the hold of a United Airlines flight, and it involved a change of planes at Munich. But when the owner came to collect Pumpkin all she found was a broken, empty cage. The plane was searched thoroughly, but Pumpkin appeared to have vanished into thin air.

To this day, no-one knows how Pumpkin got out of the cage. Either the cage got damaged during handling, or the cat took up escapology to while away the long hours during the flight, but either way somewhere between Manchester and Washington - probably during the change of planes at Munich - Pumpkin got out of the cage. After that, she did what cats do naturally - she found the part of the cargo bay least accessible to humans and hid herself away there. As a result, what should have been a brief stay in the cargo hold turned into something much longer. That plane became Pumpkin's new mobile home for the next three weeks.

With Pumpkin as a stowaway, the plane went on to Denver from Washington D.C. and then to Los Angeles before coming back to Denver. It was here, in Denver airport, that Pumpkin finally turned up. She was found by United Cargo employees, probably because by this point she was too weak to hide when they came into the hold. The severely dehydrated and starving cat was taken to the the Alameda East Veterinary Clinic. There David Gall, veterinary intern, took charge of the little traveller. His preliminary diagnosis was that the cat needed nourishment and water urgently, but there was nothing severely wrong. Indeed after four days in the Veterinary Clinic she was back to full strength and ready to face her final journey from Denver to Washington to be reunited with her owner. Her last journey was in the cabin under a watchful eye of United Airlines staff.

The twelve-year-old cat was very lucky to survive three weeks. Normally going this length of time without food or water would not be possible. Therefore, as Dr Gall pointed out, Pumpkin must have been very resourceful and at some point managed to find something in the cargo to eat or drink. Pumpkin won't be claiming her air miles, and it is safe to assume she won't be flying again without a very secure cage.


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