A team of firefighters and Suffolk County SPCA officials spent an hour Friday afternoon in Bayport rescuing a cat that had gotten stuck in a storm drain 25 feet below ground.
Employees from Vitamin World on Vitamin Drive called the Bayport Fire Department for help with the feline that they feared was unable to find its way out. Firefighters alerted the Suffolk County SPCA, and members from both agencies arrived at the location at 2:30 p.m., according to a news release issued by the SPCA.
At first, rescuers couldn’t see the cat but could hear its cries, said Paul Llobell, a captain and commanding officer of the SPCA’s law enforcement division.
Jennifer Pape, a humane investigator with the SPCA, lowered cat food into the storm drain and the animal quickly was drawn to it, Llobell said.
“It must have been starving,” Llobell said of the adult tabby cat. “It was eating the food like it was going out of style.”
Two fire trucks and 15 firefighters, under the direction of Jerry Dietz, an assistant chief with the fire department, arrived to assist with the operation. After the lid of the drain was removed, firefighters set up a ladder, and Firefighter Chris Gallo — wearing confined-space rescue equipment — went down into the storm drain and located the cat, Llobell said.
“It was a really deep storm drain. It was quite a good rescue,” Llobell said. “There was barely enough room to get the firefighter down there with his breathing apparatus and the ladder at the same time.”
The cat bit Gallo several times while he ascended the ladder, then the cat broke free and ran up the rest of the ladder and out of sight, Llobell said.
“Once the cat got up and saw broad daylight, it took off,” Llobell said. “We couldn’t catch it. It was probably scared to death. It just ran as fast as it could.”
Llobell suspects it was a feral cat because of its obvious fear of humans.
“We would have liked to have taken it to a vet to get checked out, but it just ran so quickly,” Llobell said.
Gallo was taken to a hospital for treatment from the bites to his fingers, Llobell said.
“We can’t figure out for the life of us how it got down there,” Llobell said of the cat. “The storm drain had such small openings. It must have gotten in from a sump or wherever the drain empties out.”