A routine grocery run turned into an emotional experience for Carol Delegan when she carried two stowaways from her home near Pattison State Park to the city of Superior on Nov. 8.
It started when she heard a “meow” as she slowed down to turn into the Aldi store parking lot at 4429 Tower Ave.
Opening the hood of her Toyota Highlander, Delegan found one of her 3-month-old kittens, Shadow, in the right side of the engine compartment. After putting the kitten inside the car, she called her husband to see if their other kitten, Patches, was still at home. Then she heard another “meow” from inside the engine.
“She was stuck somehow on her side,” Delegan said. “I could see a little bit of her from the outside. I could put my hand in where my lights were and she was licking my hand and kind of touching me with her paw. It was really kind of emotional.”
By popping out the fog light, Delegan could reach in and touch fur, but the kitten couldn’t get out.
Her in-laws, George and Linda Delegan, began the half-hour drive into Superior to help. Sandy Brietzmann of Superior stopped to help, as did a passerby named Kevin.
“He really kind of helped save the day,” Delegan said.
Kevin was able to better locate the cat and began working to free the feline with some tools he had in his truck. When Delegan’s in-laws arrived with more tools, Kevin was able to remove the right piece to free the kitten.
Neither of the kittens suffered injuries, and they have shown no fear of vehicles since their surprise trip.
“I think it’s amazing that they survived,” Delegan told the Telegram on Thursday, Nov 14.
It’s not unusual for cats to hitch a ride in wheel wells in cold weather, according to Sheila Keup, shelter director for the Humane Society of Douglas County. Cats may be drawn to the engine’s warmth, she said, or looking for shelter from the wind. Every year, the Humane Society takes in a few stray cats that were found in vehicles.
“It happens more frequently than people realize,” Keup said.
She encouraged pet owners to honk the horn before starting their vehicles in cold weather to scare off animals that may be inside a wheel well or engine.
Delegan said she had seen the kittens sit on the tires of their truck before, so she always checks underneath and behind their vehicles before starting them.
“I haven’t had them in my engine before,” Delegan said.
The town of Superior woman said she is thankful for Brietzmann, her in-laws and especially Kevin, who didn’t give his last name, for their help during a stressful situation.
“They went out of their way and they brought the tools that were needed,” Delegan said.