Tiger in your tank: Family finds cat trapped in engine during drive

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That’s not good: A Bedford-Stuyvesant family realized they had a problem on their hands on Tuesday morning when they spotted this tail stinking from out the muffler of their Ford Explorer.
TO THE RESCUE: Upon realizing there was a kitty stuck in the engine of their Ford Explorer, the Johnson family called 911, which sent this officer to the rescue.
REGROUPING: After a few minutes of trying to yank the feline out from under the Johnsons’ sport utility vehicle, the police officers huddle and figure out the next step.
FREE AT LAST: After a half-hour of trying, the heroic cop finally yanked the poor kitty out from under the Johnsons’ ride.
STILL KICKIN’: He may not look exactly pleased, but we’re assuming this cat felt better out of the Johnsons’ hot engine than in it.

A smelly engine could mean anything, but, when your car starts meowing, you know you’ve got problems.

A Bedford-Stuyvesant family had to make an unexpected stop in East New York Tuesday morning, after they realized that a strange smell filling their Ford Explorer was the singed hair of an unfortunate cat that had gotten stuck atop their car’s piping-hot muffler.

“He wasn’t happy at all,” said Quann Johnson, of his sport-utility vehicle’s unexpected passenger. “He was hurting.”

Johnson was traveling to visit his mother-in-law in East New York with his wife Tiffany, along with his niece, her husband and their two children, when he caught a whiff of something burning, he said.

“We just smelled something,” he said. “But I assumed it was my thermostat leaking, so I didn’t think nothing of it … until we parked the car.”

The happy family stopped at Hegemon Avenue between Fountain Avenue and Logan Street at around 10 am to grab some snacks, and when they returned, the Johnsons heard the terrible cry of a cat in distress. It wasn’t too long before they spotted a scrappy-looking tail sticking out of from the bottom of their car.

“He was making noise, basically yelling for help,” said Johnson. “At that point, he sounded strong, but my understanding of how hot a muffler can get, we knew it had to be bad.”

The feline had likely crawled up next to the still-warm engine block of Johnson’s Explorer Monday night as the temperatures plummeted, looking for a warm place to sleep.

“I guess he was trying to get warm,” said Johnson.

The family called 911 and two police officers rushed to the scene, but it was Officer Robert Zajac who drew the unlucky duty of trying to pry, pull, and otherwise dislodge the poor kitty from the scorching hot undercarriage of the Johnsons’ Ford.

The determined cops spent a half-hour under the car, while a worried Tiffany waited with bated breath and the cat seemed to be slipping towards feline heaven.

“At one point it sounded like he wasn’t crying anymore, like he’d just given up,” she said. “I kept asking the officers, ‘is he still alive, is he still alive?’ ’’

Finally, with a firm grip on his tail, Officer Zajac was able to wrench hapless feline from under the Johnsons’ car — scraggly, sick, singed, and possibly injured — but still very-much alive.

The poor cat was handed over to the Animal Care and Control Center on Linden Boulevard for treatment, and Mrs. Johnson plans on following up with the organization, in the hopes of adding another member to the Johnson family.

“I’m going to keep checking on him and, hopefully, I’d like to adopt him,” she said.

A call to the Animal Care and Control Center was not returned before deadline.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at or by calling (718) 260-4514.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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