As the camera moved deeper into the pipe, the rescuers could see something huddled in the darkness. The reports were right: there was definitely a family of cats living at the pipe’s far end. And if there was any hope of rescuing them safely, the team would have to act fast.
The rescuers first heard about the cats from a concerned member of the public who raised the alarm. Apparently, the person had spotted the animals in a drainage pipe near a parking lot, and the cats were in a dangerous situation.
The rescuers in question were members of the non-profit group Hope For Paws, based in Los Angeles, California. The organization was founded in June 2008 by Eldad Hagar and his wife, Audrey. “Hope For Paws rescues animals who are… facing death or extreme danger,” the group explains on its Facebook page.
“We then pay for all medical costs. We are made aware of these animals… by concerned citizens or by other [rescuers].” Since Hope For Paws’ inception, Eldad has remained an active rescuer – and it was he who responded to the emergency call about the cats in the pipe.
A rescue team led by Hagar went out to see if they could find the animals. They discovered the pipe, and sure enough, there was a family of cats nestling inside it. However, the team also realized that the rescue would be harder than they had hoped.
To begin with, the pipe itself was 60 feet long and very narrow. There was no way the team could reach inside. “We quickly realized more help and equipment would be needed to try and save this family,” explained the narrator of Hope For Paws’ rescue video, which was uploaded to YouTube in April 2017.
And it wasn’t just the pipe that was a problem; the cats were in a dangerous location, too. “Pipes like that can flood and these kittens had no way to defend themselves,” Hagar told animal-enthusiast website The Dodo in April 2017. The surrounding area could have been fatal, too.
“Even if the mom started moving them around frantically, [they] were in a parking lot. The kittens might not have made it. The chances that these kittens wouldn’t have survived were pretty big,” Hagar concluded. So the Hope For Paws team had to move quickly.
In fact, they returned the very next day, this time with more rescuers and a secret weapon: a remote-control car. The toy was equipped with a flashlight and a camera which was linked to Hagar’s phone. The makeshift surveillance gear was then driven slowly down the small pipe.
“I had seen someone use a remote-controlled car before to rescue cats,” Hagar explained to The Dodo. “That’s the cool thing about more and more people posting rescue videos. Even I can learn more techniques from different people.” Mommy cat didn’t seem to be too keen on the intrusion, however.
As soon as she saw the approaching car, she became instantly defensive and warned it away from her babies. By that time, though, the toy had already done its job. The rescue team knew exactly where the cats were. And they had come up with a plan.
One end of the pipe was cleared of rocks and stones, allowing space for a cat cage. Then they made something to give mommy some incentive to head towards it. “We formed a 60-foot-long pole so we could push the mom out first,” the group explained in the rescue video.
And the pole – which was cushioned at the end to prevent accidental harm – was a success. The cat seemed to hate the pole even more than she had hated the remote-control car. As a result, she barreled off in the direction of the exit and right into the waiting cage.
Once the cat was safely inside the cage, she was covered with blankets in order to calm her down. Then the team turned to the most delicate part of the rescue: the kittens. They were so young that they hadn’t even learnt how to walk, so extracting them was potentially going to be problematic.
However, the rescue team had a plan. The pole was padded to make it even softer and then used to carefully slide the kittens out. In addition, the remote-control car was sent in first, and its camera made sure the kittens’ path was safe.
“Using the live feed, I helped direct [the car], ensuring the kittens’ safety,” Hagar explained in the rescue video. In fact, the team even used the trash stuck in the pipe to their advantage. “The debris enveloped the babies, protecting them from harm,” Hagar said.
The mission was a success. Hope For Paws not only managed to rescue the adult cat but also “four perfect newborn kittens.” Moreover, the babies were soon reunited with their mommy and immediately offered a foster home.
“Joann, our resident cat expert, offered to foster the whole family,” Hope For Paws reported. And since the cats were so adorable, they were given sweet names to match. Mommy cat was called Mama Nutella, and her babies were named Nougat, Toffee, Snickers and BonBon.
Hagar told The Dodo, “The kittens are doing great, they’re just happy little kittens, around six weeks old. The mom is very young so it makes our work a little easier. But it’s still going to take some time before she warms up to everyone and gets comfortable.”
Thanks to the caller who reported the cats and to the Hope For Paws rescue team, the whole feline family is now safe and well. And although they’re currently adapting nicely to life off the streets, they will be available for adoption soon. Such sweeties surely won’t have very long to wait.