LEAGUE CITY, TX (KTRK) -- A young mother stows away on a foreign ship, looking for a better life for her soon-to-be-born quadruplets.
It happened, but with a twist.
The mother is an orange and white cat. She made her way on board a ship that sailed from Spain, bound for the Port of Houston.
The Italian crew spotted her on St. Patrick's Day during the voyage. She was weak, and soaked from a storm when a crewman scooped her up, dried her off, and minutes later, witnessed the birth of a kitten, who was the mother's mirror image.
Where there's one kitten, there are others, and the crew searched the vessel, finally locating three tiny kittens, also orange.
The ship docked earlier this month at the Port of Houston. By then, the crew was in love with the feline family.
"They wanted the American dream for them," says Monica Millican, whose group, The Friends of League City Animal Shelter, helped the crew achieve it.
Accomplishing that, however, took a lot of diplomacy and negotiation. It didn't hurt that one of the shelter volunteers works with the ship's agent.
Clearance had to come from U.S. Customs and Border Enforcement, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Department of Agriculture, U.S. Health, Texas Dept of Health and Texas Parks and Wildlife, which needed proof that the cats were not actual wildlife, according to Millican.
It all worked out. The family, Frederica, the mother, and kittens Bravo, Zulu, Juliet and India -- all named for radio tags -- are now in Millican's "cat room." It's a converted space in her bay-front home lined with cages where cats pulled from the shelter await permanent homes.
Frederica and family are now among them. The kittens are tiny, but not for their age. They're thriving and soon will be ready for adoption, after they're spayed and neutered.
The crew's only request is that the kittens retain their names, to remind their new owners that they crossed an ocean to find a new life.
Millican doesn't think anyone would argue with that.
"They have a great story that should be passed along," she says, smiling. "They haven't taken their oath yet as new citizens, but they can before they go. We'll have to find a judge to give it."