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Luis gets new lease of life

PUBLISHED: 16:33 13 February 2002 | UPDATED: 11:21 03 March 2010

HE'S served his time and now Luis the illegal immigrant cat is as free as a bird today.

For when the cat landed in Britain as a stowaway after surviving for two weeks by licking drips of condensation on a container, the future did not look bright.

HE'S served his time and now Luis the illegal immigrant cat is as free as a bird today.

For when the cat landed in Britain as a stowaway after surviving for two weeks by licking drips of condensation on a container, the future did not look bright.

He was only a matter of weeks old and had had no food, water or light for the entire journey by sea – and he was an illegal immigrant, possibly carrying rabies.

But today he has a new name, a new home . . . and a new life.

Billie Brennan, Luis' joint owner, said: "He's been with us for a week now but is still rather nervous. He is difficult to handle and has scratched my hands for life I think, but we do love him.

"He is very energetic and charges around the house – he's quite mad. But with lots of persuasion and a lot of fuss he is calming down and getting better."

Luis, who arrived at the Port of Felixstowe in August last year aboard a container ship from Portugal, has been adopted by Billie and her partner David Beuchet, who works at the Port of Felixstowe and found the kitten.

He immediately become fond of the little black moggy after he found him trapped on the ship.

Adopting him was not so simple though. As an illegal immigrant and potential rabies risk, his arrival had to be reported to trading standards, who had no option but to quarantine him for six months.

Publicity surrounding the case and fund-raising efforts by Billie soon raised the £1,700 necessary for the six months in quarantine.

And now Luis is starting his new life with a new identity – named after World Footballer of the Year, Luis Figo from his homeland.

"Originally he was nicknamed Howie, because he had been found in a consignment of Howard brand paper," said Billie, who lives with David in Felixstowe.

"His behaviour has been very challenging since we brought him home, so we have called him several different names since then – none of them printable. But as I am an avid football fan, we have now decided on Luis, after a Portuguese footballer."

Peter Monk, member of Suffolk County Council's executive committee, said: "I am delighted this story has had such a happy ending, but we mustn't forget the risk posed by rabies and other animal diseases brought into this country by illegally-landed animals.

"We have trading standards officers at the docks seven days a week, not only checking consumer and electrical goods to make sure they are safe, but also preventing animals from coming into the country unchecked.

"Thanks to our strict border controls we haven't had a case of rabies in this country for some years, but there are still cases in Europe. Anyone seeing a stray animal, they suspect may have come off a ship should contact trading standards immediately on 01473 584358."

Not everyone is quite so happy about Luis' arrival. Rolo, the couple's two year-old cat, who herself was rescued, has taken umbrage and is currently camped out in the garden, refusing to come into the house.

Billy said she wants to thank everyone who donated money to pay for the six months Luis spent in quarantine.

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