Under the hood of Ramon Herrera’s Nissan Maxima, the engine wasn’t the only thing that could purr. On Wednesday morning, Deer Park firefighters pulled a kitten out of his vehicle.
Herrera, 37, of Wheatley Heights, first heard the faint “meows” of the kitten trapped inside his car around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, when he returned to his vehicle after working out at his gym, Life Time Athletic in Syosset.
“I thought it was the car next to me, maybe someone left their cat in the car, so I drove home,” he said.
He drove roughly 10 miles from the gym to his home unaware of the small furry passenger inside his engine compartment.
The next morning, after dropping off his kids at their grandmother’s house, he heard another “meow,” but thought he just imagined it. While en route to his job in Deer Park shortly before 10 a.m., he heard it again. While at a stop sign, he pulled over, looked in his trunk and under the car, but saw nothing.
After he pulled into the parking lot of Park Avenue Barbers at 2150 Deer Park Ave., where he works as a barber, he conducted a more thorough inspection with some help from a friend. Finally, he spotted the kitten.
Unable to rescue the animal himself because of its position in the engine compartment, Herrera flagged down a local fire marshal who happened to be nearby, and Deer Park volunteer firefighters were on the scene shortly after.
“We saw this cute, blue-eyed kitten trapped somewhere between the frame of the vehicle and the motor,” said Deer Park Fire Commissioner Anthony Macaluso. “We couldn’t let the thing stay where it was, because any movement or turn of the car could have been fatal.”
Macaluso, 55, said it took him and fellow firefighters -- Joe Sheehan, 37, Dan Jacob, 25, Rob Amadola, 21, and his son, Lt. Rob Macaluso, 22 -- close to an hour to rescue the kitten, which was moving around the engine compartment. They raised the vehicle eight inches using airbags and a small floor jack, as some of the younger members maneuvered the kitten out of the car.
The tannish-brown male kitten, which weighed less than 2 lbs., was dehydrated but didn’t have a scratch on him, said Macaluso, adding that it was brought to the Deer Park Animal Hospital for examination.
“Maybe he used one of his nine lives,” Macaluso joked.
When Herrera told the story of the kitten to his wife, Kathleen, he said she encouraged him to adopt the cat, saying, “It’s meant to be.”
Because the kitten was deemed healthy, the hospital was willing to release it, an employee said. Herrera picked it up Wednesday afternoon and brought it home, where his four children, Christopher, 18, Allysia, 8, Ramon Jr., 5, and Olivia, 3, quickly started bonding with their new pet.
They’ve decided to name the kitten "Max" after where Herrera found it, his Maxima.