Richmond’s firefighting and rescue team has saved cats from trees and rooftops, but Tuesday morning’s cat rescue was a first for Assistant Chief Delbert “Buzzy” Campbell.

Campbell was part of a rescue team summoned to the gas pumps at the Richmond Wal-Mart about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday by Melanie Scaggs of Richmond.

“One of my tires was low on air, so I stopped at Wal-Mart to pump it up,” Scaggs said.

As she began to put air in the tire, Scaggs heard a loud “meow” come from the undercarriage of her car.

“I couldn’t believe I was hearing the sound of a cat from underneath my car,” she said, after driving about two miles from her home off the Martin Bypass to Wal-Mart.

Looking behind the tire she was attempting to fill, Scaggs could see the gray fur of what resembled her neighbor’s cat.

She tried to coax the frightened cat to come to her, but as the cat struggled, it was apparent he was trapped.

After another customer at the gas pumps offered to help, the two jacked up Scaggs’ car and removed the tire.

But they could not extract the cat.

Realizing the situation would require professional help, they called the Richmond Fire and Rescue Department.

“The cat was caught in the steering mechanism and his tail was wrapped around the axle,” Campbell said. While the cat lost some fur in the process, gloved firefighters managed to remove him from his predicament.

The Madison County Animal Shelter also had been called and by the time animal protection officer Daniel Lees arrived, the cat had been freed.

Lees placed the animal in a protective carrier and took him to the animal shelter on US 25 between Berea and Richmond where he was cleaned up an examined.

“The cat had some scrapes, but no broken bones,” said Keith Crawford, program director for the shelter. Sensing it was safe, “the cat had settled down” by afternoon and responded to calls and even allowed strangers to pet him, Crawford said.

“He’s a gray cat but his fur became a darker gray from his time under the car.”

The neighbors who Scaggs believed owned the cat were called and were glad to know their pet was safe and made an appointment to pick him up, Crawford added.

Crawford said it was not unusual for a cat to perch atop the wheel of an automobile where they often get in trouble.

“Other animals such as dogs can’t get to them up there, and from there the cat can look down on small prey such as mice as they run along the ground,” he explained.

“We once had a lady drive to Madison County from another state with a cat under her car that we had to extract,” Crawford said.

Bill Robinson can be reached at brobinson@richmondregister.com or at 623-1669, Ext. 267.

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