SPCA International's Operation Baghdad Pups: Worldwide program helped Sgt. Arielle and Sgt. Marisol safely move their felines overseas
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servicemembers reunite with cats
Credit: Courtesy SPCA International

 Sgt. Arielle and Sgt. Marisol are back in the paws of their beloved felines.

The U.S. service members, who both live in Florida, each rescued a cat while deployed overseas. Sgt. Arielle first met her feline, Cathulhu, while stationed in Lithuania, where she found the kitten emaciated and in need of help. She fed and cared for Cathulhu from that moment on, helping the scared kitten grow into a healthy and playful cat.

"Her personality came out, and now she is a spunky, healthy kitten who loves to play. I have been going through a difficult time recently, and Cathulhu showed up at the perfect time. We refer to her as a therapy cat because anytime you are sad or upset, she starts up the purr machine and comes to give you a bath," Sgt. Arielle said about her relationship with Cathulhu.

Sgt. Marisol met her cat, Mariska Hargitay, while deployed in Poland. It was Mariska Hargitay the cat who chose Sgt. Marisol, following the servicemember into her room. The pair quickly formed a strong bond after that moment.

servicemembers reunite with cats
Credit: Courtesy SPCA International

"I was walking to my room on my post, and there was a litter of about 20+ cats on base. I continued to walk to my residence, and when I was halfway to my room, I looked back, and there was a baby kitten following close to me. I looked around, and she was really far from the rest of her litter. I attempted to look for her mother but could not find her. I then took the kitten to my room in order to get her fed and out of the elements. We bonded immediately, and she stayed in my room ever since," Sgt. Marisol shared in a statement to PEOPLE about how she and Mariska Hargitay first met.

Understandably, both Sgt. Arielle and Sgt. Marisol didn't want their relationships with their cats to end when they went back to the U.S. To ensure the felines the pair adopted while overseas could keep being their pets in America, SPCA International's Operation Baghdad Pups: Worldwide program stepped in.

servicemembers reunite with cats
Credit: Courtesy SPCA International

This program has helped over 1,000 servicemembers reunite and officially adopt the animals they met and befriended during their deployments. Operation Baghdad Pups: Worldwide navigates the complicated logistics required to send an animal overseas safely and covers the costs of these expensive trips for U.S. service members

"Extensive planning, resources, and logistical due diligence are needed to ensure the safe travel and humane care of the animals in our program. We coordinate their vaccinations, flight arrangements, and pick up and transport to partner kennels and complete the necessary steps and paperwork to ensure that legal import requirements are followed," Emma Kronish, the director of marketing and communications at SPCA International, said of the work Operation Baghdad Pups: Worldwide does to make these reunions happen.

servicemembers reunite with cats
Credit: Courtesy SPCA International

"Being forced to leave a beloved pet behind when deployment is over can be devastating, so until we see peace in every corner of the world, OBP: Worldwide will continue to serve wherever it's needed – just like the heroes of our U.S. Armed Forces. We consider every reunion request, regardless of the location, a chance for SPCA International to give back to our troops," Kronish added on why SPCA International takes on these complex endeavors.

Both Sgt. Arielle and Sgt. Marisol are grateful to be the recipients of Operation Baghdad Pups: Worldwide's efforts. They are looking forward to spending the holidays with the furry friends that got them through some of their most challenging times.

Those who would like to help facilitate these reunions can support Operation Baghdad Pups: Worldwide by making a contribution to SPCA International's military rescue programs.