Toddler's head caught in cat flap

By Kristin Edge -
Having recovered from her ordeal, Emma-Jane won't be putting her head through the cat door again in a hurry. Photo / John Stone
Having recovered from her ordeal, Emma-Jane won't be putting her head through the cat door again in a hurry. Photo / John Stone

When Emma-Jane Hewlett turns 21 the story about how her head got stuck in a cat door sparking a major rescue operation is sure to generate plenty of laughter.

The pictures of her rescue will add to the tale.

But it was no laughing matter last Thursday when the two-and-a-half-year-old toddler got her head jammed in the cat door at her Mata family home in Northland.

It took a team of six firefighters using cutters to free the trapped girl and plenty of reassurance from her mum Michelle.

All she had to show for the hour-and-a-half ordeal was a few red marks on her face and head.

Mrs Hewlett said she had been in the lounge with her daughter, who had been playing behind closed curtains.

The first indication that something was wrong was when she heard Emma-Jane begin to cry.

Pulling the curtains open she discovered her daughter with her head trapped in the cat door used by the family feline Ted and their small pet dog named Sid.

"I tried to pull her back through but couldn't. I tried a couple of times before calling in my father-in-law to help," said Mrs Hewlett.

After numerous failed attempts by granddad, Steve Griggs - a neighbour and volunteer firefighter - was called upon to help.

But after realising he was unable to free Emma-Jane, Mr Griggs dialled 111 and got some backup from his fellow Ruakaka firefighters.

The team then began the delicate job of freeing Emma-Jane.

They put on her sunglasses and wrapped a towel over her head for protection in case the glass in the door shattered.

Mrs Hewlett kept her daughter distracted by playing a Taylor Swift song on her smartphone and taking pictures of the firefighters working to show Emma-Jane what was happening.

Ruakaka station officer Jeff D'Ath said the cat door was in two parts on either side of the glass door and firstly needed to be unscrewed.

"One of the fears during the operation was of the glass door shattering with the patient through and under it. But with care and patience it became a copybook rescue," he said.

Mr D'Ath said two female firefighters, who were also mums, were able to reassure their young patient and keep her distracted.

He said in the 20 plus years he had been in the brigade he had completed a number of extractions but never a child from a cat door.

The cat door has since been replaced and Emma-Jane is giving it a wide berth and letting Ted and Sid use it.

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