Meet the $15k jetsetting cat
IT'S been over two months since Frances Hayter was forced to leave her cat in America and race home before our borders closed.
What happened next wasn't easy - or cheap - but now the pair are finally about to be reunited.
Mrs Hayter and husband Alan from Upper Brookfield had been living in Texas for eight months before they flew back to Australia on March 20 as the virus threat hit its peak.
"We were nine hours' drive from Houston, and we thought we better get home," she said.
The couple's 10-year-old Abyssinian cat, Indigo, needed vet work before she could follow them back into Australia, but then flights into the country stopped before she was compliant, so she was stuck stateside.
"She wasn't import ready basically because of Australian requirements, and then there were no flights to get her to Australia," Mrs Hayter said.
"So she lived for two months at a vet in Houston because that was all we could do. And they were wonderful."
During her whirlwind tour over the last few months, Indigo was driven from Houston to Dallas before she flew to Los Angeles and then to Auckland before she arrived in Melbourne yesterday where she's now in quarantine.
"It's been a bit of a high-stress situation," Mrs Hayter said.
"My poor husband's had to deal with all my meltdowns because she's like my child."
Mrs Hayter said the couple used pet transport company Pet Express to get Indigo home, using Air New Zealand to fly her to the quarantine centre in Melbourne via Auckland.
But she worried about other owners who weren't able to be reunited with their pets.
"The company we're using had to spend two months negotiating with whoever they could to get her back. At one stage, they even looked at getting a charter and exporting her that way along with the 60 other pets that needed to be moved," Mrs Hayter said.
"There are still so many people trying to get their animals back."
Mrs Hayter said the exercise cost around $15,000, but there was never a question that the couple would do whatever it took to get their cat back.
"She's our responsibility and we left her behind," she said.
"She was a giveaway cat in the beginning, but she was my buddy. My husband was going off to work, so for six months and she was my company."
"Then I went 'see ya', and she was stuck there and there was nothing I could do."
Indigo will remain in quarantine until next week, when she should finally be able to fly home to Brisbane.
"Pet Express stitched together a way to get her to Australia which was almost a miracle," Mrs Hayter said.
"I almost can't believe it actually. It's just not quite real yet."
"We were the first to do this new route to make sure that we could get her to Melbourne."
Mrs Hayter said she was working on a special treat for Indigo when she finally touches down in Brisbane - and will probably pick up something for herself too.
"I'm working out how expensive the bottle of champagne is going to be."
Originally published as Meet Brisbane's $15k jetsetting cat