Picked Up by a Garbage Truck Driver and Dumped with the Remainder of the Trash, Alfie Narrowly Misses Being Recylced
"Cats are inquisitive creatures so he may have decided to explore the contents of the lorry, or it may be that he was hiding in there after being chased."
-- Emma Phillips of the Scottish SPCA
Workers at Scotwaste's Materials Recycling Facility in Bathgate, West Lothian, received quite a jolt last month when one of their garbage haulers dumped his load. Wedged in between discarded mattresses, refrigerators, ironing boards, sofas, and other miscellaneous debris was a black and white cat named Alfie.
Covered in dust and dirt from head to toe, he was rushed to Lamond Veterinary Clinic in nearby Livingston by Emma Phillips of the Scottish SPCA. Miraculously, Alfie came through his rough and tumble ordeal with only a bruised leg.
He was corralled in a shed where the garbage is sorted before being crushed and recycled. If he had been hiding in one of the discarded items, he likely not only would have been crushed to death but his demise would have gone undetected.
Although the handsome tom was outfitted with a collar, tag, and a bell, the tag inexplicably did not contain any information as to his owner. He accordingly was taken to the SPCA's shelter in the Edinburgh suburb of Balerno.
Luckily for him, his owners, identified by the media as only a Mr. and Mrs. Cranston of Kirknewton, recognized his photograph in a newspaper and came forward to reclaim him. (See photos above and below.)
"We're just delighted to have him home with us," Mrs. Cranston told the BBC on April 27th. (See "'Recycled' Cat Saved from Rubbish.") "He's in need of a bath, but he's still very scared at the moment, so we'll leave the shampoo to set until he's had a chance to settle in."
On that contentious point, Mrs. Cranston would do well to remember what Stephen Baker once said. "To bathe a cat takes brute force, perseverance, courage of conviction, and a cat," he opined. "The last ingredient is usually the hardest to come by."
As to how he wound up at the recycling plant, the Cranstons speculate that Alfie may have jumped aboard the truck for a joyride. Phillips, on the other hand, places the blame squarely upon the shoulders of that old feline bugaboo curiosity.
"Cats are inquisitive creatures so he may have decided to explore the contents of the lorry, or it may be that he was hiding in there after being chased," she theorized to the BBC on April 21st. (See "Cat Tipped Out at Recycling Plant.")
A much more likely explanation is that Alfie was either hiding or playing inside an old mattress that the Cranstons had put out by the curb in order to be collected by Scotwaste. Since the mattress was crushed weeks ago, it is unfortunately too late to examine it for hiding places.
That theory finds support in the misadventures of a two-year-old cat named Autumn from Richmond, Virginia. On February 14th of last year, she was playing in a mattress and box-spring set that her guardians, Ann and Wayne Crews, had tossed out when they ordered a new bedroom set from Haynes Home Furnishings of Williamsburg.
Haynes collected the old mattress and box-spring and took them back to its warehouse in Williamsburg. It therefore was not until six days later when store employees Wilbert Davis and Norman Bleech were disposing of them at the city dump in Suffolk that they first discovered Autumn's presence.
On February 19th of last year, Spokane resident Bob Killion donated a couch to a thrift store that Vicky Mendenhall purchased six days later for $27. On March 10th, she and her boyfriend discovered Killion's cat, Callie, trapped inside the couch.
Despite having gone without food and water for nineteen days, she not only survived but later was reunited with Killion on March 12th. (See Cat Defender post of March 23, 2009 entitled "Mistakenly Tossed Out with the Trash, Autumn Survives a Harrowing Trip to the City Dump in Order to Live Another Day.")
The lesson to be learned from the exploits of Alfie, Autumn, and Callie is that all discarded furniture should be gone through with a fine-tooth comb, even at the curb, for stowaway cats.
Although it is difficult to say with any certainty how many cats and kittens are killed at recycling plants and city dumps each year, if the number of publicized last-minute rescues is any indication this is a major problem. For example, a litter of kittens was rescued only last year from an automobile that was slated to be crushed at Scotwaste.
In 2007, a seven-week-old kitten named Penny was rescued from a pile of scrap metal that Victor Stevenson was about to haul away at a recycling center in Chester, Cheshire. (See photo on the right.)
She later was turned over to Cats Protection in nearby Wrexham, Wales, and that was the last to be heard of her. Hopefully, she is still alive and in a good home.
At the time it was believed that she had wandered onto the grounds of the plant but a more plausible explanation would be that she, like Alfie, was transported there and tipped out by a garbage truck driver. (See Cat Defender post of August 23, 2007 entitled "An Alert Scrap Metal Worker Discovers a Pretty Penny Hidden in a Mound of Rubble.")
Although bad enough in its own right, the problem of cats and kitten that accidentally wind up in city dumps and at recycling plants is dwarfed by that of all the evil individuals who use the waste disposal system in order to purposefully kill them. Last August, for example, an orange and white cat named Duff was sealed up inside two canvas bags at a Spokane apartment complex and tossed out with the trash.
Fortunately for her, she was rescued six days later by maintenance workers at the facility. (See Cat Defender post of October 3, 2009 entitled "Deliberately Entombed Inside a Canvas Bag for Six Days, Duff Is Saved by a Pair of Alert Maintenance Workers at an Apartment Complex in Spokane.")
A similar fate befell a black female named Titch from Westcliff in Essex on January 8th when she was sealed up in a backpack inside a plastic bag and tossed in the trash. The Fates smiled on her, however, and she was rescued by a passerby and now has a new home. (See Cat Defender post of February 24, 2010 entitled "Sealed Up in a Backpack Inside a Plastic Bag and then Tossed in the Trash, Titch Is Rescued by a Passerby in Essex.")
Because of the prevalence of this problem, the time has come for all of those involved in waste disposal, whether they be janitors, haulers, recycling plants, or whatever, to begin either x-raying or electronically scanning all refuse before it is either dumped, crushed, or burned. If this safety precaution were mandated by law, innumerable cats and other animals could be saved each year.
It undoubtedly also would lead to the discovery of countless fetuses as well as the remains of numerous missing persons. Picking through the trash obviously is a distasteful task but as long as there are individuals who insist upon using it in order to dispose of live cats and human remains it is idea worthy of consideration.
Photos: Scottish SPCA (Alfie) and Wrexham Evening Leader (Penny).