A small kitten got more than it bargained for when its dash for shelter led to a death-defying, 90-foot plunge that ended with the kitten shaking in the hands of her rescuer and eventual owner.
Most people add kittens to the family as gifts, giving into the persistent pleading of a child, or taking a short trip to a pet store or shelter.
In the case of “Petty,” however, the path to ownership was almost her undoing.
The work crews of the Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority arrived at 9 a.m. on Friday, at the Intake Structure (phase 1 of the Water Project) located on Ute Lake’s South Shore and began work as usual, said Mitch Haskins, project engineer on site.
Haskins said crew members approached an equipment shed near circular shaft, part of the intake structure that will direct Ute Lake water into a pipeline bound for sites in Curry and Roosevelt counties. He said when the men opened the shed, a kitten rushed past their feet and ran out onto the site.
Haskins said the crew members thought the kitten had taken shelter during the night and was startled when they opened the door. He said the kitten was quickly out of sight and the men returned to their jobs.
Haskins said an hour later workers began to hear meowing, although they could not see a cat around. He said the workers crossed the fence surrounding the shaft, looked over the edge of the railing, and discovered the kitten had fallen down to the bottom.
Haskins said safety crew members began to organize a rescue for the kitten. One man made the 90-foot descent and returned to the surface with the frightened kitten safely in hand. He said the cat appeared not to have any visible physical injuries and, other than frightened, appeared to be in relatively good health.
Haskin said a fence designed to keep people and large animals away from the opening surrounds the shaft, and there is a three-foot gap between the fence and shaft that has a railing around it for safety purposes. He said this is the first instance of any animal falling into the shaft since the project’s start.
Haskin said at first rescue workers called the cat Freefall, but after determining he was a she, they decided to go with the name “Petty” after Tom Petty, the singer of ‘Free Fallin,’” which seemed fitting.