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CAT-ASTROPHE -A tail from the dark side of cars

Published August 22, 2014

Checking the pressure of Chevy pickup’s spare tire results in a furry surprise

When you make your living working on cars, you see all kinds of strange things: things people do to their cars (deliberately and otherwise), odd stuff that happens to cars, and of course, animal intervention.

The latter can have the most surprising results.

Two weeks ago, I performed a routine oil change on a regular fleet customer’s Chevy crew cab pickup. We always check tire pressures, and since nobody likes a flat spare (having one flat tire would suck enough), I’ll check it too.

On this truck, like nearly all pickups, the spare is mounted underneath the bed behind the rear axle. As I went for the valve stem, I noticed grey fur poking out between the wheel spokes. Hmm. Better grab my camera — this could prove interesting!

Gently prodding the fur with my air chuck produced movement and a thin, furry grey tail. Still, I didn’t know what I was facing — cats have teeth and claws, too — so I stuck my cellphone up over the tire and did some recon photography. A rather bored looking cat stared back at me from its screen. Time to lower the bay doors, lest it run out and get injured or lost.

I couldn’t very well leave the cat there, and at this point I had no idea if it was injured or suffering from its undercar travels. Squirting it with a little bit of water hadn’t encouraged it to move, which was not a good sign. I had to retrieve it, and I’d have to lower the spare to do it.

The winch supporting the tire would only lower it about a foot; not enough for me to extricate the stowaway. Rocking the tire on its cable got results. Now I had a big grey cat standing on the truck’s driveshaft, with its head wedged above the fuel tank. The cat must have figured that if he couldn’t see me, I couldn’t see him. Really, he’d have been hard to miss.

Did I mention that cats have claws? Or that he was big? Donning a nice thick pair of leather welder’s gloves, I gently grasped the cat around his mid-section and began fishing him out from where he’d anchored himself, culminating in a humorous cat-dangling-from-the-driveshaft moment before I finally bore the full weight of this actually quite beautiful all-grey feline. Moments later, I saw blood — surprisingly, not mine — so I rushed the now dripping cat into our bathroom. The bleeding, much to my relief, stopped almost immediately.

What to do? The cat wasn’t wearing a collar, but by his condition and docile manner he was obviously not feral so I called Oshawa Animal Services.

The officer arrived at my shop less than 15 minutes later. She picked him up, scanned him for a microchip (none), then flipped him over to check him (sex: neutered male, injuries: a “superficial” scratch on his hind leg that probably started bleeding when he stretched out during his extrication).

With the locations of where the truck had been parked during the day and overnight recorded, my big grey Speedbump was loaded without protest into a pet carrier for transport to the shelter, where he’d be observed for 72 hours and the process to try and match him with his owner would take place. I figure he’s from Ajax, where the truck overnights, a roughly 20-kilometre trip.

At the time of writing, Speedbump (now renamed Chevy) remains at the Oshawa Animal Services shelter at 919 Farewell St. S. (905-436-3311).

Hopefully he’ll be united with his owner, or, failing that, find a new, loving home. I’d take him, but with three cats and a dog already, I’m perilously close to crazy cat person status. Besides, Max, my 18-year-old male, probably wouldn’t take kindly to a new, younger male cat in his house.

He’s earned the right to be king.

Brian Early is a full-time automotive technician at a privately owned repair shop in the east end of the GTA. A lifelong car enthusiast, Early has been an automotive journalist for more than 14 years. This is his first cat story.

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