Hurricane Irma Impact On Pets, From Stressed Orangutan Connie To 55 Hungry Hemingway House Cats: How To Help

Amid the devastation of Hurricane Irma for residents of the area come reports of what it has been like for pets of all sizes and types living in the region. From a stressed-out orangutan named Connie, who kept her eyes covered during the worst of the storm as her caretaker tried to soothe her, to the 55 six-toed cats who weathered the hurricane at the legendary Hemingway House, the tales are revealing both the suffering of these animals along with what can be done to help them.

Lost And Abandoned Pets Overflow Miami Animal Shelter

In the wake of Hurricane Irma, Miami’s largest animal shelter is flooded with pets that became lost or were abandoned. Alex Munoz, director of Miami-Dade Animal Services, talked with NPR about how storms such as Irma challenge the shelter. His goal is focused on reuniting pets with their owners, and for those animals that remain abandoned, to find forever homes.

“We’re hoping for people to start showing up. And adopting animals and transporting animals is what we’re working on.”

While the NPR reporter was on the scene, one woman came in to turn in a lost dog that she had found. With tears in her eyes, the Good Samaritan explained how she rescued the dog but could not keep the pet because of her building’s rules.

“How many people left the house and left the dogs there? There’s a lot of stories,” she added.

This family evacuated before Hurricane Irma hit, taking their dogs, mini-horses, and a pet pig.
This family evacuated before Hurricane Irma hit, taking their dogs, mini-horses, and a pet pig. [Image by Mark Humphrey/AP Images]

Meet A Very Stressed Orangutan Named Connie

Beyond dogs and cats, some unexpected animals were affected by Hurricane Irma. In Miami, creatures at Jungle Island watched trees fall and plants go down. However, managing director Christopher Gould told NPR that despite having to care for everything from parrots to tigers and lions, no creature managed to make a getaway during the storm.

Connie the orangutan, however, showed just how stressed she felt by her actions. Head vet Jason Chatfield revealed how the staff comforted the terrified animal, who covered her head through the worst of the experience.

“You can’t hold [the orangutan], but you can sit next to her and kind of chat with her.”

And just as with people, the animals recuperate by going back to their familiar routines and turning to their favorite comfort foods.

Hungry Hemingway House Cats Are Feline Fine

As for the famous cats at the Hemingway House, the felines are doing just fine. And even though the kitties consume an impressive amount of food (80 pounds every week), TMZ reported that the hungry Hemingway cats have enough to feed the entire kit and caboodle for about a month.

“The Hemingway Home cats are making it out better than some humans post-Hurricane Irma because there’s enough food to feed all 55 of them for the next 4 weeks.”

Prior to the storm, staff purchased 300 pounds of cat chow. It’s important for pets to get enough drinking water, and the Hemingway House has had to boil water to keep the kitties safe. Some of the employees who did evacuate while the cats and other staff remained will be purchasing additional food for the famous animals.

Princess Six-Toes, an ancestor of the cats given to Ernest Hemingway, contemplates life at the Hemingway House.
Princess Six-Toes, an ancestor of the cats given to Ernest Hemingway, contemplates life at the Hemingway House. [Image by Wilfredo Lee/AP Images]

How To Help Pets In Need

With heartbreaking news from the devastated region continuing to emerge, there are a variety of ways to help pets who are in need. Some rescuers are continuing to save cats and dogs impacted by Hurricane Harvey in Texas, as well as Hurricane Irma in Florida, with many lost or abandoned pets being transported to other areas.


Heather Cammisa, the president and CEO of St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center, told New Jersey 101.5 that 232 animals arrived in New Jersey from Florida and South Carolina during the weekend.

“We are welcoming these animals. Some of them need some medical care.”

In addition to performing operations needed before the dogs and cats can be adopted, such as being neutered or spayed and vaccinated, the animal center is seeking homes for these pets. Cammisa urged that those who have been contemplating adopting pets visit their local shelters.

“If you’ve been thinking about adopting a pet come on down, see us, see any of the groups or your local shelter,” she urged. “Adopting an animal frees up more room.”

Those who can’t adopt a pet right now can make a donation to animal rescue groups. In addition, the animal center CEO asked people to consider fostering or volunteering at their local shelters.

[Featured Image by Wilfredo Lee/AP Images]