"Petraveller was empathetic to our challenging situation and found us the best option to get our pets home."
Rodger and his beautiful cats – Monkey, Mia, Queso, Turtle and Cheddar – flew back home to the United States on the historic Qantas 747 retirement flight. Rodger talks about his cats and their quirks, and the pet travel experience.
July 22, 2020, was a momentous day for many. It was the day Qantas was bidding goodbye to the last Boeing 747 in its fleet. Qantas was retiring its last Jumbo Jet months ahead of schedule because of the coronavirus pandemic, and the Jumbo Jet was flying to the United States to be parked in the Mojave Desert in California. The iconic fleet, launched five decades ago, has flown every Olympic team from Australia since 1984 and changed the face of Australian aviation by making travel affordable for thousands of Australians.
It was an equally important day for Rodger Cambria and his family; their five cats were finally flying back to the United States from Australia after several months of incessantly trying to find a way back home. Originally from California, Rodger and his family moved to Australia in 2018 when his wife got a two-year job contract to work for a company in Melbourne. Rodger says, “The cats are a big part of our family; if we couldn’t bring the cats to Australia, my wife wouldn’t have accepted the job.”
Bringing five cats to Australia was a big challenge, and the Cambrias were finally able to fly all of them over in January 2019. Rodger says fondly, “Our cats – Monkey, Mia, Queso, Cheddar and Turtle – are very important for us. They are family.”
Reminiscing about how the cats became a part of the family, Rodger says, “We rescued siblings Monkey and Mia ten years ago from a Los Angeles animal shelter when they were just four weeks old. Monkey is an enormous gorilla of a cat; he’s all black and is an intimidating sight. But, in truth, he’s a gentle giant who loves nothing more than eating, playing and cuddling. Mia is a grumpy old lady who dislikes all the other cats and most people too, except for my wife and me. She’s a sweet cat, but only with us.”
In July 2017, the Cambrias fostered a tiny fuzzy one-month-old orange tabby kitten named Queso. Queso’s front leg on the left side was paralysed from an unknown injury when he came to the family. Rodger remembers, “When he turned six months old, we had to have his paralysed leg amputated for health reasons. But that hasn’t stopped him from running, jumping and playing with the other cats with absolutely no mobility issues. We fell in love with Queso, and our foster turned to full-fledged adoption. Queso is now three years old, and he’s our extra-furry tri-pawed kitty.”
The loss of a limb has not dimmed Queso’s personality in any way. He is a rambunctious cat with an enormous personality – and appetite. Rodger says with a laugh, “Queso loves to eat more than anything else. He eats more than most large dogs!”
In December 2017, about six months after Queso entered their lives, the Cambrias fostered two more kittens – siblings Cheddar and Turtle. Rodger says, “Cheddar is an orange tabby and Turtle is a brown and orange tortoiseshell kitty. Like Queso, we foster-failed again and decided to adopt them into our growing furry family.”
Cheddar is the resident cuddler at the Cambria household and loves to curl up on your lap. Cheddar is also the protector of the group. Rodger explains, “If another cat comes into the yard or any other animal that is perceived as a threat, it is Cheddar who steps up to defend the other cats, even though she is far from the biggest or strongest of the bunch.”
Turtle, on the other hand, is the social butterfly of the group. She loves being around people, even those she doesn’t know. Rodger says, “When unfamiliar people come home, the other four cats usually run and hide away, but not Turtle. She is highly curious and wants to meet everyone and solicit belly rubs from them.”
When his wife’s work contract ended in April 2020, Rodger began making arrangements to return home to California with his feline family. Since it happened just as the COVID-19 lockdown was announced, bringing them home was proving to be very challenging. Rodger says, “Our work contract ended just as international air travel options, including all options for transporting pets, were shutting down because of Covid-19. We were effectively stuck in Australia from April until late-July till a flight option for the cats finally became available.”
Rodger contacted several pet travel agencies to help him with this complicated move before choosing Petraveller. He explains, “The pet transport company we were working with initially wasn’t very attentive, and the communication was poor. When I contacted Petraveller, I knew within five minutes of talking to them that we wanted to work with them. They were emphatic to our challenging situation; they were in constant communication with us, gave us regular updates and ultimately found us the best option to get our pets home.”
He adds, “The team was efficient, attentive, friendly, and highly professional throughout the entire process. The level of customer care we received from Petraveller during the chaotic COVID pandemic as they struggled to find viable travel options for our animals in an impossible situation was commendable.”
On July 22, 2020, as Qantas prepared to bid goodbye to its beloved jumbo jet, Monkey, Mia, Queso, Cheddar and Turtle were finally flying home. The Cambria cats joined ten other Petraveller pets onboard the historic flight. As the plane taxied off the runway to a lovely water cannon salute, there was not a single dry eye as several people, including pilots, cabin crew, engineers and Qantas staff gathered in the hangar to bid goodbye to the ‘Queen of the Skies’. The plane took off as scheduled from Sydney, drew a flying kangaroo – the Qantas logo – in the sky before disappearing into the horizon.
Rodger was both relieved and ecstatic that his cats were finally on their way home. He says, “Everything happened so quick that I don’t think I even realised that my cats were flying on this historic flight till after they came home.”
Monkey, Mia, Queso, Turtle and Cheddar are now happy to be back home in Los Angeles. They are back to their usual tricks with Cheddar protecting the pack from unwanted animal attention and Turtle requesting for belly rubs from all visitors to the Cambria household. Rodger is delighted with Petraveller’s service and the whole pet travel experience. He states, “There are so many international pet transport companies in Australia to choose from, and I had extended conversations with several of them. But what set Petraveller apart was the terrific customer service, excellent communication, and real personal touch. If you are looking for a company for whom you are not just a nameless, faceless customer, but part of their family, then Petraveller is the company to use.”
Thank you, Rodger, for your kind words and trusting us with your gorgeous kitty family. Here’s wishing you many more memorable adventures with your beautiful cats!