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Kind-hearted Nina's holiday souvenir is stray cat from Tunisia

By Joanne Sweeney

Published 18/06/2015

Nina Packalen rescued Star the cat
Nina Packalen rescued Star the cat
Nina Packalen
Nina Packalen with her son Marcus and their other pets, Snoopy the dog and Tyson the puss

From Tunisia with love - that's how Star the stray and injured cat travelled 2,500 miles to find a new home in Belfast.

It also took the dedication and devotion of several women volunteers to pull off this heart-warming international pet rescue.

The frail little cat won the heart of Belfast woman Nina Packalen when she visited the north African country on holiday last November.

After she returned home, Nina brought the cat's plight to the attention of the charity Adopt a Tunisian Pet. The charity rescued Star and cared for her until she was back to full health. When the cat was offered up for adoption in Europe, Tina decided it was time to give the little two-year-old feline a long-term home.

Star was finally handed over to Nina on Tuesday evening after she travelled over to Liverpool by ferry to collect her from one of the charity's UK-based volunteers.

She is still exploring her new home, as when the Belfast Telegraph went to take her photo yesterday, she had gone walkabout.

The assistant accountant said that Star was just one of the stray cats that lived in the hotel grounds in the El Mouradi Club resort of Port El Kantaoui which she visited with her son Marcus (14) and good friend John Murphy last year.

"We used to feed some of the cats that lived in the grounds of the hotel and I noticed that Star was really unwell," said Nina (49).

"Even though I tried to feed her, she could not eat very well or drink and couldn't move beyond a yard or two. She would just lie under the trees and I feared she would die if she wasn't helped.

"I'm not the type of person who can bear to see an injured animal and not take pity on them, so I tried to help her before I left but I couldn't get a vet to her."

On arriving home at her Ballygomartin Road home in west Belfast, Nina could not get Star out of her mind and made concerted attempts to find a vet for her until she contacted Adopt a Tunisian Pet.

She had to turn 'pet detective' to help the charity locate the cat, scanning photographs and sending a Google map of the hotel complex to pinpoint where she thought she could be found.

Nina said: "Star is with me now but there has been some amazing work behind the scenes to help get her here and to get her back to health."

"Volunteer Zohra Zarrouk in Sousse went out of her way to go and find her at the hotel and then fostered her until Star was ready for adoption.

"The charity works closely with Rescue Animals of North Africa (RANA) in London and the ladies who brought her to the UK are Michaela Hutchinson and Florence Heath.

Michaela then kept her in her home and brought her to the Liverpool ferry for me."

Nina also praised volunteer Simona Farcas, founder and director of Adopt a Tunisian Pet, who organised everything to make Star's journey possible.

She added: "We already have a cat, a dog and a white rabbit and I didn't really want another cat, but Star is with us now and we will make sure she is well cared for."

Belfast Telegraph

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