Lost cat returns home thanks to owner’s perseverance and help from city worker

By Helin Jung
Updated July 23, 2010 05:22 PM

When Samuel Zarcone climbed into the catch basin of a sewer in New York City’s Bronx neighborhood, he could hear the meows. But the damp, muddy sewer was dark, and the kitten seemed to be stuck at the far end of a pipe.

The little cat’s owner, 21-year-old Edita Pjetrovic, perched anxiously above Zarcone on the sidewalk, listening as he assured her that the 4-month-old, named Motz, was still alive, and that he would try his best to get her pet out the dangerous situation.

Motz had already been missing for a few days – he had run out of an open door during a barbecue at Pjetrovic’s nearby home – before one of Pjetrovic’s friends called to say that the kitten was spotted trying to scratch its way out from under the drain cover.

Pjetrovic called 311, New York City’s non-emergency hotline, for help, then 911, and when things didn’t feel like they were happening fast enough, she ran to the local firehouse. “Before the fire department came, my friend yelled out that the kitten had fallen into the water and was trying to swim out,” she tells PEOPLEPets.com. “So I ran even faster, but by the time the fire department got there, the kitten had gone inside the pipe.”

The firefighters tried luring Motz out with a can of cat food, but it didn’t work, and they eventually left.

“We just stood there,” Pjetrovic says. “Nobody was helping us, and we got scared that nobody was going to do anything.”

She kept calling 311 until an operator told her that she might get help from the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, which manages the water supply. Zarcone answered the call on his radio, but once on the scene he realized he couldn’t easily retrieve the kitten – he needed backup. His superiors came through with camera equipment.

“As soon as we put the camera in there, we spotted the kitten,” Zarcone says. “The kitten started to follow the camera because there was a light on it. He started poking at it and was meowing.”

With Pjetrovic out on the sidewalk calling Motz’s name, Zarcone kept pulling his camera further out from the depths of the 25-ft. pipe.

“We pulled it nice and slow until the kitten got to the pipe opening, and I reached in with my right hand, with a glove on, and grabbed him by the neck.”

Motz, who had been stuck inside the sewer for two days, would certainly have died had there been any heavy rain, Zarcone says, so the rescue makes him “feel like a million dollars, believe it or not.” Motz is doing well, according to Pjetrovic, but is spending a few days at the vet just to make sure he’s fully recovered from his ordeal. As for Pjetrovic, she says that she’s learned a lesson from this experience.

“Take care of my cats! And be very, very careful.”