Tiny kitten travels at 70 mph in truck's undercarriage on long trip

EAST WENATCHEE - A tiny kitten hiding in the undercarriage of a big pickup truck took a long trip Thursday and lived to meow about it.

A six-week-old female tabby with a bum leg but lots of spunk "rode 70 miles at 70 miles per hour" while huddling behind a skid-plate that protects the truck's transmission, said the vehicle's owner and driver Rod Thomas. "I never knew she was there till I heard the faintest, tiniest meow-ing," he said. "It was a real surprise."

Thomas, a 45-year-old sales rep for Day Wireless in Wenatchee, said the kitten ó now dubbed "Lucky" ó huddled in the truck's underbelly from East Wenatchee to Moses Lake for what must have been a harrowing morning trip. "I still can't quite believe how this all unfolded," he said. "But everything turned out OK, and she seems to be happy and healthy."

The stowaway kitten's journey began early Thursday morning in East Wenatchee when Thomas jumped in his 2004 Ford F-150 pickup for a trip to a sales meeting in Moses Lake.

As he drove through Rock Island ó bam! ó a bird flew into the path of the truck. Feathers flew, but Thomas said a glance in the rearview mirror didn't show the bird's body on the highway. "I thought it must still be stuck in the truck's front grill," he said. "I decided to check it when I got to Moses Lake."

Thomas said he never slowed on his way to his meeting located another 60 miles or so down the road.

At his destination, Thomas immediately checked the grill for the dead bird but didn't find it. As he closely checked the bumper, then checked under the truck, he thought he heard the tiniest squeak of a meow. "I thought, 'What the heck is that?'" he said.

Looking more closely, Thomas said he heard a faint meowing coming from under the truck. He lay down on his back and scooted under the chassis but didn't see or hear anything. He listened again. And again. Then he saw a thin, furry tail protruding from behind the skid-plate.

"I gently tugged on it," he said. "It pulled away, was gone for a second, and then a blur, then this little fuzzy head peeks out."

Thomas said it took about five minutes to coax the nervous kitten from the guts of the truck. "She was spooked, that's for sure, but we got the poor thing out and made a place for her in the back of the pickup."

Guys came out from the sales meeting, said Thomas, and helped to gather up food and water bowls, a couple of old sweatshirts to use as a sleeping pad and cardboard for a makeshift litter box. They opened the windows of the pickup truck's canopy so she'd have lots of air and checked the kitten frequently during the sales meeting to make sure she was OK.

"We found her asleep on the sweatshirts, looking calm and comfortable," said Thomas.

On Friday morning, Thomas took Lucky to the Wenatchee Valley Humane Society for a quick check-up. They found no injuries, but they did note that Lucky has a deformed front foot that she's most likely had from birth. Humane Society staffers also found no implanted identification chip. No reports of anyone missing a cute little kitten had popped up either.

"Now Rod needs to decide if he wants to keep the kitten," said Stephanie Manriquez, the Humane Society's executive director. "Of course, if he decides not to keep it, then we'll try to find her a good home."

Thomas, though, is undecided. He's allergic to cats, so hasn't had a house cat in many years. But he and his wife do like to have a cat - a mouser - out in their hay barn for rodent control.

Thomas said their longtime barn cat died two months ago, and he and his wife just haven't been able to decide whether to get another cat, or even what kind to get.

Then along came Lucky. "She's probably not the cat we'd choose for the barn," he said, "but all my friends are pointing out that this is a turn of fate - we need a cat, and one appears in a kind of magical way."

Even more convincing, he admitted on Friday, is that the cat is now in his possession on a very special day. "Today's my birthday," he said, holding Lucky in his arms. "Here she is, right on my forty-fifth birthday."

Copyright (c) 2010, The Wenatchee World, Wash.

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