As a general rule, Jeff Thomas doesn’t rescue cats from trees. But on Tuesday, he could hear the urgency in the dispatcher’s voice.
Normally cats come down on their own — Thomas, a battalion chief for Salt Lake City Fire Department, said he’s never seen a feline skeleton in a tree — and he lets them do that on their own time rather than tie up SLCFD resources. But in this case, the cat had more pressing matters on her mind than getting down, Thomas said.
"It was a mama kitty in trouble," he said. After being stuck for a week in a tree at 1351 E. Harrison Ave., the feral cat was giving birth.
When firefighters arrived and saw the gray cat in one of the neighborhood’s many tall trees, they learned from neighbors that the mother had already given birth to two stillborn kittens the previous evening.
Brand new recruit Timothy Nypower got in the ladder bucket and the crew lifted him up to the mother, which proved a tricky maneuver through the thick branches, Thomas said. Once Nypower reached the mother, he found a third kitten was already in the birth canal.
The mother gave birth to that final kitten on the way down with Nypower.
"The cat was scared and frightened," said spokesman Jasen Asay. She scratched and bit him on the way down too.
Salt Lake County Animal Services took custody of the mother and kitten, but the third kitten was also a stillborn. The cat was spayed when she arrived at animal services and is currently under bite quarantine, said associate director John Coulter.
The firefighters joked with Nypower that it’s every firefighter’s rite of passage to rescue a cat from a tree. "He’s since passed that hurdle," Thomas said.
Nypower had to go to the emergency room for treatment of the bite.
Copyright 2013 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.