Emme Is Saved from an Agonizingly Long and Lonely Death in a Storm Drain Grate Thanks to Rescuers in Massachusetts
"I thought the antics in the delivery van topped the cake, but she (Emme) continues to outdo herself. Hopefully, this one teaches her a lesson."
-- Lee Ann Spiess
Ten-year-old Emerald Green Eyes, Emme for short, went out for a stroll early on April 14th near her home on Strawberry Lane in Norfolk, Massachusetts, thirty-four kilometers outside of Boston. Somehow or another she got her tiny head trapped in a grate covering a storm drain and wound up being suspended in midair by her neck. (See photo above.)
Luckily for her, an unidentified resident from the neighborhood just happened to notice her plight and promptly contacted Animal Control Officer Hilary Cohen who in turn summoned the local fire brigade. The rescue team attempted to free the gray cat but that effort ultimately proved to be unsuccessful.
They instead were forced to remove the entire grate with Emme still trapped inside it and cart it to Acorn Animal Hospital twenty kilometers away in Norton where Emme was sedated and eventually freed.
Emme thus became the second cat in recent memory to have been saved from a certain death by Cohen. Back in January, she rescued a cat named Annie who nearly had frozen to death in a snowstorm. (See Cat Defender post of January 21, 2010 entitled "Trapped Outdoors in a Snowstorm, Annie Is Brought Back from the Dead by the Compassion of a Good Samaritan and an Animal Control Officer.")
Emme, who suffered unspecified minor injuries, was held overnight at the hospital before being returned the following day to her relieved owner, Lee Ann Spiess. "She's doing just fine," she told The Sun Chronicle of Attleboro on April 16th. (See "Norfolk Woman Reunited with Her Rescued Cat.") "She's home and she's not looking to venture too far, hopefully not for a while."
Emme showed up hungry and as skinny as a rail at Spiess's door nine years ago and has been an integral part of the family ever since. She apparently either likes to go exploring or simply is unlucky because she sometimes gets into trouble.
For example, she wandered into the back of a delivery van a few years ago and was subjected to a hair-raising tour that covered a good portion of the Bay State. Once again, she somehow managed to come through that misadventure unscathed and, just as importantly, find her way back to Spiess.
"I thought the antics in the delivery van topped the cake, but she continues to outdo herself," Spiess told The Sun Chronicle in the article cited supra. "Hopefully, this one teaches her a lesson."
That may be more easily said than done in that storm drains and grates are everywhere just waiting to swallow up unsuspecting cats and other animals. For example, earlier on April 9th a trio of red fox kits found themselves in an identical pickle in Plainfield, Connecticut. (See photo above.)
Like Emme, they too made it out alive thanks to the timely intervention of local Animal Control Officer Karen Stone. With the frightened kits nipping at her gloved hands and their nearby mother threatening violent intervention, Stone first tried lubricating their heads with petroleum jelly and corn oil but neither ploy worked.
Through a process of trial and error, she finally hit upon dishwashing detergent and that did the trick. After she had tediously manipulated their heads back through the grate she collected them in a cage and drove them back to their den where she humanely released them.
"Except for being a little soapy, I think they were okay," she told the Hartford Courant on April 13th. (See "In Plainfied, Three Fox Pups Stuck in Storm Drain Grate Are Rescued.") Like Spiess with Emme, she hopes that the kits have learned to avoid grates.
Storm drains often turn into death traps for even those cats and other animals that are able to avoid getting their heads lodged in their grates. For example, on September 9, 2006 a six-week-old gray and white Manx kitten named Piper was freed from a storm drain that contained methane gas in Salinas, California, after having been trapped there for a week. (See photo above.)
A trap baited with mackerel and a bell that jingled finally succeeded in accomplishing what all previous ploys had failed to do and Piper was brought to safety unharmed. (See Cat Defender post of September 18, 2006 entitled "Rescuers Lure Manx Kitten Named Piper from a Storm Drain in Salinas by Baiting a Trap with Mackerel and a Bell.")
Since records are not kept as the number of cats and wild animals that die in storm drains, it is not known how big of a threat that they pose. It might be economically feasible for municipalities to outfit these drains with screen wire or some other porous covering that would prevent the types of mishaps that Emme, Piper, and the fox cubs have experienced.
Newer storm drain grates, such as those that are installed in developments, should have significantly smaller openings in them. None of these remedies, however, are going to deter individuals from disposing of used motor oil and other harmful pollutants down storm drains.
Finally, it is imperative that cat owners add storm drains to the list of places that must be checked whenever their cats disappear. To her credit, Stone has pledged to occasionally check the storm drain that caused the kits so much anguish.
It is a terrible thought to contemplate but any number of cats could be either slowly wasting away or being preyed upon by wild animals right under their grief-stricken owners noses in storm drains at this very moment.
Photos: Fox-25 of Boston (Emme), Daily Mail and Rex (Fox cubs), and Scott MacDonald of The Californian of Salinas (Piper).