By Alexander Lawrie
A SIX hour-old kitten was saved from certain death after getting stuck in a kitchen pipe – when firemen used a vacuum cleaner to suck it to safety.
The newly-born puss quickly used up one of its nine lives after it had dropped down a drain, sending owner Claire Coutts into a panic.
But, the attending fire crew used Ms Coutts vacuum cleaner with a sock attached to suck the terrified mite out of his hiding place.
Firemen had rigged up an ultra-light fibre-optic camera to locate the cat but had trouble freeing it, before coming up with the idea of using the Hoover.
Ms Coutts, 26, of Dunbar, East Lothian, said: “I’ve not long had the mother (Alvin) and she went in behind the kitchen unit to have her kittens at about 4pm. A little while later I checked on them and the four kittens looked fine.
“But at around 11pm I checked again and could only see three of them. Alvin was sniffing about a pipe under the sink, and then I panicked when I heard the tiny cries.
“I was so distraught at the thought of this newly-born kitten dying under my floor.”
Ms Coutts immediately called the SSPCA but found their emergency service cuts off at 10pm. The fire brigade was next on the call list and arrived within an hour, late on Monday night.
The mum-of-three said: “The fire brigade were just great. They had to wait on another appliance arriving with the camera because their first idea was just to rip up the kitchen floor.
“I’d tried for ages to reach the kitten using my arm, but it was pointless because the wee soul had dropped down about three feet.
“They then decided to get the Hoover out and see if they could suck it out the hole. I put a sock over the end, stuck it down the hole and out it popped.
“I’ve never been so relieved.”
Crew manager Caroline Ellis, of Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service, said: “The kitten’s mother had obviously made its bed there and went to give birth. By the time we got there the cat and its bed had been removed, so we’ve got no idea how the kitten got into the pipe.
“We decided that we were being a little too gentle, and after several frustrating tries we just jammed the nozzle into the pipe and got it as close to the cat’s head as we could.
“We switched the Hoover on and the cat just went ‘soooook!’ up into the nozzle. We knew it was in there because the Hoover was struggling, so we pulled it out and there it was at the end of the nozzle safe and well.”
Ms Coutts added: “I haven’t named any of the kittens yet, but I think this one will be called either Lucky or Sox. Both names seem suitable.”