Updated September 19, 2019 - 4:51 pm
An unwitting stowaway stray was lucky to escape with at least one of its nine lives after a 15.5-mile freeway hitchhike.
A Las Vegas Review-Journal employee, page designer Tony Morales, approached a few other newsroom employees with a strange question on Sunday.
“Do you own the green or blue car parked outside the newsroom? Because there’s definitely a cat stuck inside of your bumper,” he said.
Sports digital content producer Rochelle Richards showed Morales a picture of her car, and yes, that was that one. She walked outside to the newspaper parking lot and, sure enough, there it was; a fluffy tail lodged near the tire well and a light-colored foot hanging from the passenger side of her bumper. He must’ve been there during her commute along the 215 Beltway and Interstate 15, Richards surmised.
A colleague determined the animal was breathing, but freeing it from the bumper proved beyond the skills of the growing group of employees around her car. Richards called animal control.
About 15 minutes later, animal control officer Joshua Kuykendall arrived and got to work.
He dislodged the tail and began to pull. First came the rear legs.
Next, wrapping a towel around its body, he pulled through the torso and then finally the head.
The surprisingly large stray cat — its orange, white and beige fur dirtied from the car — was panting and visibly dehydrated but alive. The worker placed the robust boy into a carrier cage, loaded him into the animal control truck and took him to the Animal Foundation for the care he needed.
The foundation’s feline program coordinator, Alyssa Dazza, said Thursday that the cat came in with a high temperature and a lot of stress. The veterinary team cooled him down and gave him a “very thorough” exam, Dazza said. The tomcat came back with a clean bill of health and was neutered, ear-tipped and vaccinated as part of the foundation’s “Community Cats” program.
Dazza said the community program fights overpopulation and allows neighborhood cats to lead their lives happy, healthy and on their terms. It offers people rented traps so they could bring in neighborhood cats and give them the same services the stray received.
On Wednesday, the foundation finally released him back to his neighborhood. The one-year-old, 12.4-pound cat — nicknamed “Bumper” by foundation staff — got out of the truck and took off running, “looking for freedom,” Dazza said.
“He looked comfortable and knew where he was going,” she said.
How Bumper got stuck in the bumper in the first place remains somewhat of a mystery. Neighborhood cats may often choose the inside of a car as a “pretty obvious place” for them to seek warmth and shelter, particularly in the winter, Dazza said. Typically, that means hiding under the hood, not within the bumper, she said.
“This is a pretty unique (case),” Dazza said.
Richards doesn’t know, either. She surmised it must’ve crawled into her car overnight for a cat nap and became an involuntary passenger to the Review-Journal office.
Prior to Sunday, she had never thought to check her car for animals. But she wanted her experience to serve as a reminder for others to check their surroundings and vehicles before leaving.
You never know just what you’ll find.