The cat in the crate
Travelling can be tiring. Even a short catnap is welcome if you’re going a long way. But if you’re confined to a small space for a long time, as Mercedes the cat was, there’s not much else to do but sleep.
When a motor car recently arrived by ship in Adelaide, South Australia, from London, the cat was found packed inside the shipping crate. It was named Mercedes after the luxury car it accompanied. The tiny stowaway had been confined in the container for six weeks. No food, not much space to move, and little water. The surprised owner of the car applied to ‘adopt’ the cat when its quarantine period was up.
The secret to Mercedes’ survival? A natural ‘shut-down’ process of nonessential organs, says Dr Bill Porges, associate dean of Sydney University’s Faculty of Veterinary Science. Lack of food is not a major problem for a cat in good condition, he says.
The key to the animal’s survival is its access to and conservation of water. ‘Fat oxidization in its body would have produced minute quantities of water’, Dr Porges says. Condensation from the car and the walls of the crate may have provided other sources of water.
Under such restricted conditions, Mercedes would have ‘shut down’ its kidneys and liver. It would have had almost no possibility for activity, so would have simply curled up to stop loss of body heat, and spent most of its time asleep, Dr Porges says.
This may go some way to explaining how Mercedes’ ancestors and their friends survived the trip aboard Noah’s Ark. They had food, more space than Mercedes, and plenty of water. To varying extents, hibernation in warm-blooded animals, and a state of dormancy in others—from insects to reptiles—is probably how the animals survived their long Ark journey. So Mercedes the cat was simply doing what came naturally—using its remarkable God-given abilities to survive extremes.