AUBURN – If firefighter Doug Ball learned anything on Monday, it is this: Cats know nothing about the laws of physics.
A kitten that got its head stuck in a storm grate Monday morning was rescued after hours of hanging from the drain with its head poking up into the roadway. The rest of its body hung below the street and rescuers believe the kitten was stuck in that position for several hours.
“He must have come in from a different direction. I imagine he saw daylight above him and tried to get out that way,” Ball said. “He got his head through the grate, but that was all. He got stuck and could not go any further.”
Police and rescue crews guess that for most of the morning, the cat hung with his head in the roadway with cars and trucks whizzing past.
The metal storm grate at Mt. Auburn Avenue and Turner Street has square openings just 3 inches wide, Ball said. A pair of people walking down Turner Street came across the bizarre sight and quickly called for help.
Police officers carefully lifted the 150-pound grate and rested it on the roadway, but the cat remained stuck and the officers were stymied.
Crews from the fire department and public works used electric saws and the Jaws of Life to free the cat after less drastic methods failed.
“We tried to use dish soap to get the cat’s head back through the grate,” Ball said. “But it wasn’t going to happen.”
The entire rescue operation lasted nearly two hours.
Public works cut into the metal with an electric band saw. That allowed firefighters to squeeze their hydraulic equipment in and pull the metal apart, allowing the cat to wiggle free.
“He was exhausted and dehydrated,” Ball said. “He must have been there for hours.”
That the cat survived the ordeal at all is considered a miracle among those that freed him. The animal could have easily suffocated after the length of time spent hanging by the neck. Or a more grisly fate could have stricken him.
“Someone could have driven just a little too far to the side and they would have run him over,” Ball said.
Instead, the cat was wrapped up in a towel and taken to the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society. Ball said the animal appeared underfed and that it was not wearing identification tags.
“At the end, the cat looked all right,” said Nancy Theriault, who came upon the rescue scene as the cat was being freed. “He didn’t seem very panicked, considering what he had been through.”
At the Humane Society, workers cleaned the animal and fed him. They will now attempt to find out where the cat belongs or seek out a new owner.
“It’s a beautiful little black and white kitten,” Ball said. “I’d be surprised if he was more than a month old. He was a little worse for wear, but it looks like he’s going to make it.”
Theriault said she does not like to think about what might have happened to the kitten had the pedestrians not come along to make the strange discovery. She also commended the city crews who freed the animal without inflicting further injuries.
“They did an awesome job,” Theriault said.