Polk County cats take free, life-saving plane ride to new homes

Polk County

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – You’ve heard of snakes on a plane, but Thursday in Polk County, there were cats on a plane!

Twenty-seven cats and kittens from SPCA Florida hitched a ride on a plane to find their forever homes in the Chicago area.

An Alaska-based pilot, Mark Helmericks, donated his time and fuel to fly the felines.

His involvement began when his wife found a kitten in need in New York and a willing owner in Florida. He flew that kitten to the Sunshine State himself.

“The SPCA asked if sometime when I’m heading toward Alaska if I wouldn’t mind dropping off some cats in some of the northern areas. Who can turn that down?” he said. “Instead of going to their graves, they’re going to go to wonderful homes.”

Helmericks estimates it costs about $30 extra per cat to make the pit stop in Chicago.

This is part of SPCA Florida’s effort to make Polk County a no-kill county by the year 2025.

Polk County ranks first in the state when it comes to the number of animals that are put down.

The SPCA has been transporting animals by van to northern states, trips that can take a lot of time and a lot of resources.

“The longer the kitties are in the carrier, the more stressed out they get. So having someone step up and offer to fly them for free for only three hours, it is a Godsend,” said Randa Richter with SPCA Florida. “Less stress on the cats and they can get there faster.”

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