Ruby Meade says she’s feeling a little preoccupied about her upcoming flight.
It’s understandable. Not everyone is comfortable with flying -- especially not 28 feral cats from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
“I have a feeling the flight’s going to be stressful,” she said recently.
Meade and her husband, Glynn, who live and work as government contractors on the naval base, known as “Gitmo,” are organizing a rescue mission of epic feline proportions. They want to relocate nearly 30 stray cats from the base to her new retirement home in Lancaster County.
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The base, well known for its wartime prison, has upward of 500 feral cats roaming the area, according to activists who want to help. The appropriately-named “Operation Git-Meow” is made up of troops, civilians and activists with connections to the global animal rescue group SPCA International.
“Operation Git-Meow” teamed with the Virginia-based nonprofit animal rescue group “Pilots ‘N Paws” to bring some of the cats to Lancaster.
Meade is retiring to Lancaster County after 20 years of contracting work on the base. Meade said she worked with Naval service leadership to capture several of the cats to be spayed or neutered.
Thanks to the partnerships, she said, a plane will arrive May 13-14 to transport up to 28 cats to Miami. From there, the cats will need to clear customs before they can be driven to their new home in South Carolina.
Meade requested that The Herald not publish her address or neighborhood to discourage others from dropping off stray cats.
“Once we get them here, we want to take the best care of them,” Meade said. “They’re family to us. We just want them to have a good life.”
Ruby and Glynn have worked on the base since the early 1990s. Ruby says she’s looking forward to the next phase of her life.
The cats all have been vaccinated, she said, and will adapt well to a new environment. Ruby has regularly taken in cats that were sick, abandoned by their owners, and any feral cats that needed a home.
She recently set up a GoFundMe page to help raise money for the flight. She said it will cost nearly $1,000 per cat to fly them to Florida. As of last week, the GoFundMe has raised $3,735.
The money will pay for insurance, landing fees, fuel, and travel expenses for the private pilot volunteers.
Git-Meow founder and foster-cat mom Tina Marie Parr told The Miami Herald that she has taken care of 40-50 cats in the past three and a half years.
Meade says there have been mountains of paperwork to fill out over the past seven months to allow a private pilot to fly to the restricted-access base and bring the cats to America
The cats range in age from two to 11 years. Meade already lives with two of them at her Cuba home, while two others are “office kitties.” The others enjoy hanging out in the yard.
And once they’re back in the Lancaster area, she’ll have time to take care of them all, she said.
“We’re really looking forward to it,” Meade said.