Spice the kitten, who went on the lam in New Mexico only to turn up in southern Maine, will soon be headed home.

With the help of a local businessman, Spice will make the 2,300-mile return journey on a commercial airliner and reunite with her owner after slipping out of the door and into the Albuquerque night on Halloween.

“It really touched my heart,” said Jonathan Ayers, president and CEO of Idexx Laboratories, a global leader in the development of veterinary products for pets. “She’s a miracle cat, and I felt like I could do something to complete the miracle.”

Since the Portland Press Herald published the tale of Spice’s long-distance travel, a couple dozen calls also have rolled into the Animal Rescue League of Greater Portland from people wanting to check on the kitten, said Jeana Roth, a spokeswoman for the shelter.

She said Idexx, which is a supporter of the nonprofit shelter in Westbrook, called Friday to extend an offer to return the cat home.

“This is a first for us,” Roth said. “We’re hoping to get her on a plane within the next week to two weeks at most, and we know Thanksgiving is next week and it would be wonderful to get her home for the holidays.”


Ayers said his company will foot the vet bills until Spice gets over what he called a “kitty cold.” When she is cleared to fly, a shelter staffer will accompany the feline on the flight to New Mexico. Ayers will pay for a hotel so the shelter staffer can stay over before flying home.

His was not the only offer.

Southwest Airlines contacted the shelter expressing its interest in helping the cat, as well as an anonymous New Mexico resident who wanted to find a discount flight, according to the KOB television station in Albuquerque.

It’s still a mystery exactly how and with whom Spice made the journey east. “Only Spice knows,” Ayers said.

The pink-nosed, pint-sized kitten was discovered inside a duffel bag outside the Catholic Charities Maine Thrift Store on St. John Street on Nov. 5. Bob Watterson was browsing at the store when he helped someone unload some donated furniture. He brought the bag into the store, assuming it contained donated items, and the bag started moving.

“I walked back over, unzipped the bag and this cat popped out,” Watterson said.


The bag also contained kitty litter and cans of cat food, but the kitten had no collar or other visible identification. It did, however, have a microchip, which was used to locate the owner.

Watterson, who already has a cat and a dog, took the cross-country traveler home with him, but Spice wore out her welcome there after she used a bed as a litter box.

Spice was turned over to the animal shelter on Nov. 11, joining the nearly 4,000 other animals that come to the Westbrook shelter each year. Volunteers and staff at the shelter checked for the microchip.

“This story is very important as an education opportunity in our community on the importance of micro-chipping,” Roth said. “We reunite animals every week with their owners.”

The pet’s owner declined to be interviewed for this story.

Matt Byrne can be reached at 791-6303, or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: MattByrnePPH

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