In early October 2022, The Ritz-Carlton, Naples project was impacted by Hurricane Ian, a category five storm. After the storm, the project team in Naples, Florida discovered stranded kittens.

The eight-foot storm surge caused extensive flooding, damage to the basement of the hotel building and the surrounding area development. Superintendent Matt Hoag and project engineer Monica Butcher were astounded by what they discovered during the clean-up efforts. As the project team began clearing site, Hoag discovered a starving grey kitten that was tangled up in fallen landscape debris.

Hoag’s empathetic sensors immediately kicked into gear, and he felt it was his duty to save this kitten. Hoag says, “She looked pretty hungry and skinny, so I untangled her and brought her into the office where I gave her some food, blankets and cuddles, which she enjoyed thoroughly.” The kitten, dubbed Stormy by Hoag, was taken to the vet and estimated to be about 6-8 weeks old. He brought her home the day she was found to continue providing around-the-clock care.

Stormy wasn’t the only kitten found in the aftermath of the storm. Two days later, a landscaping crew was clearing brush and found another kitten crying for help. Knowing about the previous kitten rescue, the landscape crew handed the kitten over to project engineer, Monica Butcher, who she later named Jet for his tuxedo coloring.  

A born cat-lover, Butcher did not hesitate to make sure both kittens were taken care of; she would feed them formula and soft foods during the day at the project site. Hoag and Butcher would take them home every night to continue feeding, playing and caring for them.

Butcher kept the kittens in her office where there was a “revolving babysitting door.” This lasted for about four to five weeks and ended up resulting in a great daily lunchtime play with the kittens. The other project team members also enjoyed the break after working endless hours cleaning up the aftermath of the hurricane. 

Being a cat fan and rescuing these kittens on the project site led Butcher to pursue something greater for both her and other stray cats. In an effort to give back, she partnered with Snip Foundation, a local organization that traps, neuters and releases cats. The program exists to reduce the number of homeless animals in the area.

Butcher says, “I have trapped five cats and two actually did get rehomed to a person that the program was in contact with, which made me feel good because I knew they were in safe hands.” Additionally, one of the other cats that was trapped ended up finding a permanent home with Butcher. 

Both Hoag and Butcher say they couldn’t have rescued these kittens and taken care of them in the way they did if it wasn’t for the immense support of the PCL project team.

Already a close-knit group, constantly engaging in team bonding activities and spending time together outside of work, the Naples team got even closer after Hurricane Ian and the kitten rescue. “During this time period, the team knew they had the option to come in my office at lunch or when they needed a five-minute break from a hard day – there would be kittens to play with. It offered an escape to the team and gave us all the opportunity to not think about work for a little bit,” says Butcher.

Butcher confided that although the hurricane was devastating for the property and the project team, rescuing these kittens and having this experience with one another boosted the team’s confidence and brought them significantly closer.

“It helped our morale. After the hurricane, our spirits were low because we were so close to being done with the project and because of the immense damage from the hurricane, we essentially had to restart from the ground up.”

No matter what’s thrown at the Naples project team, they now know that they can get through just about anything with the support and compassion of one another.