ANTIOCH, Calif. — A day after a cunning rescue near Harbour Park in Antioch, east of San Francisco, it’s hard to say who’s happier: the small, gray cat that was saved from the depths of a 15-foot storm drain, the residents who listened to its distressed meows for two weeks and tried everything they could to save it, or the dozen volunteers who ultimately came together to pull off the rescue Thursday evening.
Neighbors say it was more than 14 days ago that they noticed the kitten was stuck in a cold, wet feline version of Alcatraz. It endured two big rainstorms by cowering in a small space under a pipe where the water didn’t rise.
It wasn’t until around 6:30 p.m. Thursday that volunteers from Homeless Animals Response Program used a tuna-soaked towel to lure the young cat into a trap, said HARP volunteer Ray Zeeb. It is now safe and resting at Zeeb’s home.
“It was a Christmas miracle,” area resident Arlen Dumin said of the rescue operation that flooded Worthington Court with the cars of nearly one dozen volunteers and an Antioch police vehicle. “You should have seen it. It was amazing.”
The cat was shaken after the rescue, but has since perked up, and her rescuers say she’s energetic, affectionate and very hungry. They have appropriately named her Stormy, but on Friday they learned she was not microchipped, HARP volunteer Susan Smith said.
Anyone who claims to be Stormy’s rightful owner will have to show a photo of her, and Stormy will be available for adoption if she isn’t claimed within 30 days. In the meantime, she will undergo a routine physical to ensure she wasn’t harmed by the ordeal.
The rescue was a group effort between animal-loving volunteers and area residents, and most of the people involved caught word of the trapped cat through social media. The cul-de-sac resembled a “drive-in movie theater” because of all the cars lined up with people who sought to help the cat, Zeeb said.
After the cat was trapped, two unidentified Samaritans helped open the 300-pound grate before city workers arrived to do so. Antioch Police were on the scene to ensure the safety of the volunteers and city workers arrived later to verify that the grate was properly replaced, Zeeb said.
“This was not a HARP rescue — this was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen,” he said. “Everybody was just so concerned — it was unbelievable.”
Neighbors had tried various ways to save it, as had staff from animal services, the city’s public works department, and even the local water agency, but all initial attempts failed. In the meantime, the cat remained trapped below, mewing pleas for assistance that could be heard more than a block away. As days passed, area residents and animal control officials grew concerned that it was just a matter of time before the raccoons that traverse the city’s entire sewer system stumbled upon the poor, little feline.
“It’s been the talk of my granddaughter’s elementary school,” resident Ed Dumin said. “She comes home and says, ‘Papa, the cat! What are we going to do?’”
Animal Services Supervisor Monika Helgemo said Thursday she was confident that the story would have a happy ending. She recounted a time a few years ago when she was able to save a kitten from a city sewer and ended up adopting it as her own pet.
“Everybody says, ‘The cat got itself stuck, it should be able to get itself out,’ and that’s not always the case,” Helgemo said.
©2014 Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)
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