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Monday, September 18, 2006

Rescuers Lure Manx Kitten Named Piper from a Storm Drain in Salinas by Baiting a Trap with Mackerel and a Bell


"Le temps passe avec un chat n'est jamais perdu."
-- Sidonie Gabrielle Colette

Little Piper's (See photo above) introduction to this wicked old world was a rough one. Just six-weeks-old and homeless, she suddenly found herself trapped in a dark and forbidding storm drain that was full of methane gas and other scary and unpleasant things and creatures. She was, quite naturally, frightened and hungry.

Rescuers in Salinas, California, who had been trying unsuccessfully for several days to save her, were about at their wits' end.

Firemen, such as Rick Smith (See photo below), had donned oxygen tanks and respirators and climbed down a manhole into the sixty-foot-wide, four-hundred-fifty-foot-long storm drain in order to look for her but every time they got to within striking distance the frightened kitten would run away. Restrained by the limited reach of their air hoses, the firemen were then forced to abandon the chase.

A video camera was lowered into the hole in an effort to pinpoint Piper's exact whereabouts, but all this accomplished was to provide fleeting amusement for the newborn. Food was tossed down and humane traps baited with more food were lowered to no avail.

Finally, after being trapped in her subterranean hellhole for around a week, Piper was brought to safety on September 9th when Judi Adams of the SPCA of Monterey County came up the idea of baiting a trap using a jingle ball with a bell and some mackerel.

Piper was chasing a leaf down the drain when she heard the jingle and detoured to the trap. (See photo above on the right.) The bell was necessary because rescuers feared that methane gas in the tunnel had dulled the kitten's sense of smell to the point where the fish alone would not be sufficient to lure her into the trap.

"It was really the ball that did it," Beth Brookhouser of the SPCA told The Californian of Salinas on September 11th. (See "Kitty Coaxed to Safety.") "(The kitten) was standing right on top of the mackerel before she realized, 'Oh, there's food here!'"

The black and white Manx (See photo on the left) appears not to have suffered any injuries as the result of her subterranean misadventures and she is reportedly now doing well. She will remain at the SPCA for a couple of weeks in order to give officials time to monitor her health and after that she will be put up for adoption.

Piper is, quite naturally, glad that her long ordeal is finally at an end. "She seems pretty happy to be in daylight again," Brookhouser added.

Piper's plight came to the public's attention on September 3rd when employees of a business park near Salinas Municipal Airport first detected her cries coming from a storm drain at the junction of Moffett and LaGuardia streets. The SPCA was called in on September 6th and Salinas Public Works and the fire department later joined the rescue effort.

It is not known how Piper got trapped, but storm drains are certainly large enough for her to have either purposefully crawled in or to have fallen in by mistake. She is fortunate that her cries were heard and help was summoned. Storm drains no doubt claim the lives of many kittens each year.

SPCA officials toyed with the notion of naming the kitten Stormy or Draino but when it was firmly established that she was indeed a female Piper was chosen instead.

Originally from the Isle of Man where their images still adorn coins and stamps, kayt Manninagh are usually tailless and their hind legs are longer than their front ones. Being hardy animals, they are much in demand by farmers as mousers.

Photos: Scott MacDonald of The Californian (Piper with toys), KSBW-TV of Gilroy (Piper in cage), SPCA of Monterey County (Piper), and David Royal of the Monterey County Herald (Rick Smith).