‘Fan-belt kitty’ survives and has tale to teach all
The woman’s car had worked fine on the way home from the Clapperton Road ambulance station in North Kamloops.
However, when she went to start it up again to drive back to work on Nov. 23, the vehicle stalled.
When she opened the hood, the trouble became clear. A stray kitten — likely part of a feral colony living in the Clapperton area — had hidden itself in the car’s undercarriage and become entangled in the car’s fan belt, pulling it off.
“She could actually see the kitten wrapped around and twisted inside the fan belt,” Kamloops SPCA staffer Jenn Breckenridge said.
“They figured it was dead, just by the way it was twisted in there.”
But, the three-month-old kitten was luckier than most. By the time the woman had gone for help and returned, the cat had freed herself and crawled farther into the car, taking up a position just over the gas tank.
Breckenridge, on a day off at the time, rushed to the scene after the woman called the SPCA and a fellow staffer alerted her to the situation via text message.
Two Kamloops bylaw officers responded as well, along with the woman’s father.
The ensuing rescue operation would take several hours.
“Trying to get the cat out from between the undercarriage of the car and the gas tank — it’s a matter of six inches, tops. So, you can imagine how that went,” Breckenridge said.
“I was underneath the car trying to wiggle my hand up in there. I could touch the cat, I could pet her, but I couldn’t get a grip on her. And, it wouldn’t have mattered anyway, because any way I could try to pull her out, every opening was too small.”
When a driver from Mike’s Auto Towing stopped by several hours later, the rescue crew was considering pulling out the gas tank to get at the kitten.
“We had the car up on jacks, just to get some more leverage,” Breckenridge said. “It was nuts.”
The tow-truck driver, however, discovered an access hatch under the car’s back seats.
Normally intended to allow access for fuel-pump replacements, in this case it allowed access to a kitten in need of medical attention, but in much better shape than anyone had expected.
While it’s not uncommon for stray cats to climb into warm cars in winter months, the act is usually fatal if the vehicle is started while they’re inside.
“There’s no coming back,” Breckenridge said.
“This kitten is just — I don’t know how. I don’t get it. She was literally part of the engine for a good few minutes.”
To avoid a similar situation, Breckenridge is encouraging drivers to bang on their hoods, honk their horns or kick their tires before starting up their vehicles.
“Usually when there’s movement, the cats will run and take off, especially if they’re ferals. People are scary to them, so they’ll generally run away.”
Once the kitten was out of the car, bylaw officers rushed her to Valleyview Veterinary Clinic, where vets discovered she had two diaphragmatic hernias, making surgery risky, but possible.
An anonymous donor donated $100 for the kitten’s surgery and one of the vet technicians took her home to foster during her recovery.
A few weeks later, the kitten was adopted permanently by Elin Edwards — one of the two bylaw officers on the scene during the rescue.
“She was quick to settle in. A little nervous of new people but, if you play with her, she’ll become your new best friend,” Edwards said.
“She’s really come a long way. She’s just like any other kitten right now — feisty and into everything.”
Though initially dubbed “fan-belt kitty,” Edwards settled on a new name for her pet: Ocho.
“It’s the Spanish word for eight,” she explained — the number of lives fan-belt kitten has left.