It’s common for travelers to return home from vacation with a few souvenirs. Maybe they pick up handcrafted goods, unique and locally made treats or little tchotchkes for their friends and family. Some people go home with all of the above… and a new pet.

I am the former. Last summer, I took a five-day trip to Aruba with a group of fellow journalists. Aruba is a tiny island north of Venezuela where people often enjoy honeymoons and family vacations. We were there to check out the tourism scene and try some of the island’s best activities and food.

Falling in love by the sea

One night, a teeny tiny cat approached our noisy group while we watched the sunset across the ocean.

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She was all fur and bones but wanted nothing more than to rub up on our ankles and be held. I fell in love but said my goodbyes when it was time for dinner. While I ate, I noticed her big yellow eyes staring at me through the door of the restaurant. Three bathroom trips later, the kitty had a belly full of steak and I had a heart full of love.

A conversation about bringing her home started as a joke, but the more I thought about it, the more determined I was to make her mine. The United States requires #Animals to have an exam and shots at the veterinarian before they can enter customs, but I only had one day left in Aruba.

It's surprisingly easy to find air travel for cats

On my way to Queen Beatrix International airport in Oranjestad, I left my little orange cat at a vet’s office, paid for two weeks of boarding and her shots, and decided I would devise a plan from there.

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Apparently it’s common for people to visit Aruba and fall in love with pets, probably because there are so many stray cats and dogs around. As a result, a network of nonprofit organizations exists to help animals fly from Aruba to their new homes. New Life for Paws and Sgt. Pepper’s Friends joined together and arranged air #Travel to Logan Airport in Boston, just one week after I left the island.

I paid the airline’s animal transport fee and seven days after catching a taxi home from baggage claim, I was back at Logan to pick up my cat. An American couple had flown back from Aruba with their three small children, plus two cats and a dog that were being adopted. Ruby the orange cat, named in honor of her original home, was soon running around my Boston apartment and playing tricks on my dog.

Some people call me crazy. I kind of am. Some people criticized me for not choosing a pet for adoption from America. My only response to that is that I have so much love for animals, it can’t be confined to one country. Rescuing a stray animal from any country means there’s one less cat suffering in the world… and that’s a good enough reason to bring a cat home from vacation for me.