Happy ending for stolen cat found on cross-channel ferry
Story by Nigel Blundell, KM Group
A French family have been reunited with their stolen cat after an extraordinary international police operation. The green-eyed tabby, with the French name of Poussey, was found wandering on the car deck of a cross-channel ferry. The cat was "arrested" by the Port of Dover Police and would have been put down but for an amazing tale of coincidence and kindness by East Kent animal lovers.
The saga began two years ago when the cat wandered into the home of Sandrine Foehr and her family in Le Havre. Sandrine's children - Charlotte, 14, Caroline, 13, and Louis, six - fell in love with the affectionate puss and begged her to keep it. So she was delighted when the owner, whom she traced through the animal's microchip, announced that the straying pet was no longer wanted.
But on April 22nd this year, Poussey vanished. The Foehr family were frantic. Sandrine and her customs officer husband Martial, both 46, searched the neighbourhood in vain. Unbeknown to them, Poussey turned up two days later - 200 miles away in Dover. Discovered by P&O staff, the unclaimed cat was passed to port PC David Palmer.
"The cat's microchip revealed that it came from Le Havre," said David, "but what we didn't realise was that it was the old address - and the original owner had moved away." It looked like curtains for the cat. PC Palmer had even given it a new name. Because he is a Las Miserables fan, he'd called it "Javert" after the tough French police inspector in the musical.
"Javert was effectively on death row. If an animal arrives without a Pet Passport, it becomes a rabies danger and must be put down or go into quarantine. Our holding facility at the docks is designed for keeping a cat for not much longer than a day. After that, if a home hasn't been found for it, the animal is usually put to sleep.
"I contacted 13 sanctuaries, catteries and charities throughout Kent and, although most offered Javert a home, the £500 quarantine and veterinary fees would have been an absolute killer."
That's when Operation Poussey went into overdrive. PC Palmer called in local vet Jeremy Stattersfield to help save the stateless tabby. "He is a very affectionate cat and it wasn't his fault he found himself in the wrong country," said Jeremy. "We just had to help him."
The vet, who has surgeries in Dover, Whitfield, Walmer and Folkestone, took on the task of giving the cat its jabs. He issued it with a Pet Passport and arranged its three-week stay at the local quarantine cattery. After its time there, the cat was transferred by Jeremy to Rhodes Minnis Cat Sanctuary.
Meanwhile, PC Palmer sought help from across the channel - and Major Arnauld Caron of France's border force, Police Aux Frontieres, arranged for kindly cops in Le Havre to leave a note on the door at the cat's registered address. By sheer luck, the Foehr family had decided to check whether the cat had returned its original home and found the note with the telephone number of the Port of Dover Police.
Sandrine and her children travelled to Dover. At Jeremy's surgery in Castle Street, veterinary nurse Martina Hood, who had been caring for Poussey, finally reunited Sandrine with her stolen pet.
"I was just frantic when he went missing," she said. "I just knew he had been stolen. But I never dreamed that his kidnappers would have driven him out of the area. What sort of people would do such a thing? It is 170 miles from Le Havre to Calais. Poussey must have escaped from the car during the 25-mile channel crossing." Charlotte said: "We are so grateful to David Palmer and Jeremy Stattersfield. We have another cat and a dog back home but Poussey was extra special. After all, it was he who chose to come and live with us!"
Poussy reunited with the family: L-R Mme Foehr and her three children, PC David Palmer of the Port of Dover Police, Burnham House Veterinary Nurse Martina Hood; and Officer Alain Lhote of the French Police aux Frontieres.