Abandoned cats from Maui at home in Oregon

Two cats adopted by the author from the Oregon Humane Society. (Photo illustration by Annamika Konkola/YJI)

Portland, Oregon, U.S.A. – In the aftermath of devastating wildfires in Maui, people in Oregon adopted displaced Hawaiian cats and kittens, providing humane relief for the stranded animals.

Out of 92 cats and kittens sent to Oregon in mid-August for placement, only two have yet to be adopted.

In a statement sent to an Oregon Humane Society email list on August 17, the shelter announced that the following evening it expected the arrival of the shelter cats and kittens from the Maui Humane Society.

In mid-August, the Oregon Humane Society welcomed 92 cats and kittens after a 2,500-mile journey from Hawaii, according to an email sent to contacts.

As of Tuesday. Oct. 10, all but two of the cats from Maui had been adopted, according to Oregon Humane Society spokesperson Laura Klink.

“The remaining two are working with our behavior team since they are quite fearful and are still adjusting to the new environment,” said Klink.

Each of the cats and kittens arriving in Oregon received a “thorough screening” as well as essential care including “food, shelter, and any needed medical services like spay/neuter” the email said.

Many of the cats were able to go up for adoption the weekend they arrived. 

As the first large rescue effort at the Oregon Humane Society’s new Behavior and Rescue Center, the care of the cats and kittens marks a major milestone for the organization, according to Klink.

“We are fortunate to have a dedicated Rescue Center that can be used to help with large transports of pets from natural disasters,” Klink said.

Dr. Stephen Kochis, a veterinarian who is chief medical officer at the Oregon Humane Society, said at the time of the transport that the Rescue Center “was built for this exact purpose.”

Its mission – “to provide relief in the event of a disaster” by being able to care for “a whole lot of” animals at once – is an important one, Kochis said.

Across the world, many people struggled with wanting to help communities in Maui devastated by the wildfires, but not knowing how to have a direct impact.

Through the new Rescue Center, the actions of those in Oregon can help communities 2,500 miles away. The transfer of these cats from Maui to Oregon is one example of how people around the world have come together in times of disaster.

According to Klink, the Oregon Humane Society is “grateful to help the pets and people of Maui.” 

In Maui, all sectors of society may need support for months or years to come amid the grief and loss of the widespread damage.

Klink explained that the transport of the cats – which were already in Maui Humane Society at the time of the fires – means “space and resources are freed” so that the shelter is better able to direct help to pets lost or injured by the wildfires and “reunite them with their people.”

Wildfires in Lahaina, a historic town on the west coast of Maui home to around 13,000 people, began on the night of August 8th. 

In a social media statement on August 13, Hawaii’s Governor Josh Green referred to the Maui wildfires as “the largest natural disaster in our history.” 

Maui, he said then, is a “harrowing sight.”

The impact on animals – both pets and wildlife – on Maui mirrored this heartbreaking human toll.

Immediately, the rescue and care of animals in the impacted region was a concern for community members throughout the island. 

The official website of the County of Maui, Hawaii, issued a flash report 11 days after the wildfires, stating that the Maui Humane Society is the island’s “main emergency shelter,” providing emergency care to animals affected by the fires. 

Annamika Konkola is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

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