A kitten stuck down a drain sparked a major rescue operation in Kerikeri yesterday involving the SPCA, a plumber, council contractors, a small child, a vet and the volunteer fire brigade.
The fluffy, blue-eyed kitten was finally plucked to safety by a contractor around 3pm after spending at least five hours stuck about 20m down a stormwater drain. It is now recovering at the Bay of Islands SPCA.
NorthTec tutor Jo Berghan said a passer-by alerted her to a pitiful meowing from a drain at the corner of Kerikeri Rd and Hone Heke Rd about 10am. She managed to lift the manhole cover but neither she nor a vet from the clinic across the road could see the stricken kitten.
''So then we got this little boy and shoved him down there to have a look. He was just walking past and he was keen to help.''
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The boy couldn't see the kitten either so the next attempt was by a plumber with a camera on a 5m cable. When the cable proved too short Ms Berghan called the SPCA. Two inspectors arrived about 11.30am and tried enticing the kitten out with a bowl of food.
The inspectors called in council contractors who had to get a map of the stormwater system so they could find the next manhole, which was on a nearby section and entirely overgrown. However, even with a closer exit, the kitten still wouldn't budge.
At that point SPCA inspector Wendy Locke called the Kerikeri Fire Brigade. While contractor Lance Kenney waited down the drain, net in hand, firefighters pumped a small amount of water into the higher manhole.
''The cat poked its head out, saw me, and went back in. Then it saw the water and came out. It didn't even get its paws wet,'' Mr Kenney, who described himself as ''a bit of an animal man'', said.
Ms Locke said the kitten was unharmed but exhausted. It would be given food, water and TLC, then the SPCA would try to find its owner. It was definitely someone's pet and not a stray, she said.
If its owner cannot be found the SPCA already has a list of people involved in the rescue keen to adopt it.