Kamo firefighter James Darwent and Paige Coyle-White are happy with the end result. Photo / Supplied
A mammoth community effort has gone into saving a tiny black kitten that had been trapped down a drain for at least 48 hours in Whangārei.
Firefighters from Whangārei and Kamo stations, the local council and contractors, neighbours and nearby business owners all rallied to help the kitten, stuck underground in a stormwater drain on Spedding Rd near the Tikipunga roundabout.
But it was two volunteers from Whangārei Cat Rescue group – Shyra Clifton and Paige Coyle-White – who were the real heroines, refusing to leave the helpless animal and returning numerous times to get help.
The rescue began after Clifton spotted a Facebook post about the distressed feline on December 12.
She drove to the scene that morning to check it out and spoke to the neighbours, who told her the kitten had been there “three or four days”, but as she couldn’t hear or see any sign of the animal, she left.
That night she saw another post on social media, so she returned the next morning and called a local drainage company, who said they “couldn’t do anything” at that stage without authority from the council.
“I thought ‘I’m not leaving a kitten down a drain’, so I called the fire brigade,” Clifton said.
By this time fellow cat rescue volunteer Coyle-White had turned up, along with nearby shop owners and neighbours who were standing around in the pouring rain trying to figure out what to do.
“Me and Shyra lifted up the grate on the road,” Coyle-White said.
“We were trying to see if we could hear anything.
“She called the fire brigade and they came, and at first they thought they couldn’t do anything because of the confined area.”
The fire service said it was too dangerous to put anyone down the drain before the gas levels were checked, Clifton said.
The kitten was difficult to reach, stuck underground in a pipe halfway between two grates and wouldn’t budge.
“I was going back and forth between drains meowing at this kitten trying to get it to respond,” Coyle-White said.
“The firefighters said they would try to flush him out with water to get him to go to one end.”
Kamo chief fire officer Colin Thomson, who attended the incident along with three other firefighters from the Kamo fire brigade and some from Whangārei, said fire crews were there for well over an hour.
“We had to get Whangārei [fire brigade] with a gas monitor to make sure the atmosphere down the drain was good enough for someone to go down there.
“The gas monitor came up and we checked the oxygen levels to make sure it was safe.
“Then we found an entry to the stormwater drain and start flushing water down it so we could get the kitten out.”
Once the all-clear was given, Coyle-White ventured down the drain.
“They said okay to go into the drain and I went down meowing at this kitten,” she said.
“Once that happened the kitten started crying some more.
“I grabbed a torch and I could see him, he was moving forward slightly.
“I stuck my arm out and touched his nose and thought he was drowning so I reached in and grabbed him.
“He chomped down on my finger but once I had him in my arms, he was really appreciative.”
The kitten was wet and bedraggled but is otherwise okay.
He has been named James after Kamo firefighter James Darwent, because “he said he would stay and help us and was really good about the whole situation”, Clifton said.
A Whangārei District Council spokesperson said everyone stepped up to help.
“Lots of people wanted to help this kitten.
“Our call centre, waste team, contractors and our new ‘cat lady’ who is contracted to Armourguard were alerted, along with Whangarei Cat Rescue and plenty of social media calls for help.
“It was an excellent result.”
Thomson also said it was a “good result”.
“We don’t do that many animal rescues, but we help out where we can.”
Clifton said James is recovering well from his ordeal.
After his rescue, she took James straight to the vets, “dried him off, got him some food and worm tablets, and gave him a good flea bath”.
“He was super happy; he was very glad to be out of that drain.”
James, who is believed to be about 12 weeks old, is being cared for by another foster volunteer to make sure he doesn’t catch a cold or pneumonia. He is also on the vet waiting list to be desexed.
He already has a forever home; a woman who adopted another black kitten 10 months ago.
“He’s healthy and fluffy,” Clifton said.
“He’s doing great now; he’s smooching up to his foster’s dog.”