A cat story

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 28, 2008

The cat in the hat comes back.

That’s widely known.

What about a stowaway cat in the wheel well of a moving vehicle, where the origin of its journey is unknown, its destination determined and its future murky at best?

Such is the case of a fluffy orange kitten who was found on Franklin’s Main Street last Thursday tired, dirty, hungry and thirsty, not hiding the fact that it was irritable yet still as in need of affection.

This is a story of Gayle Schmitz, who runs a frame shop on Main Street that carries a wide range of inventory, but not items that would coax a cat from the protection of a car’s mainframe.

It is also the story of Jennifer Walsh, a public defender who works in the office on Main Street and Third Avenue who somehow picked up the kitten in her sport utility

vehicle either from her vacation spot in Nags Head, N.C., or her home in Suffolk.

And it’s also the story of Harold Edsall, who &uot; is the hero of the story&uot; by pulling the kitten from the vehicle by its tail.

But the story starts with Bonnie Swain, who heard the kitten cry and meow and generally make a fuss. Swain was sitting in a chair in front of The Bookman book store —her husband’s — on Franklin’s Main Street last week when she thought she &uot;heard a faint cat sound.&uot;

At first, she doubted what she was hearing.

Then a woman passed on the sidewalk and turned with an odd look on her face. She, too, heard the cat.

The cat, however, was not coaxed by sweet words. Swain thought another approach was needed.

So she crossed Main Street to the Franklin Art and Frame Works to see whether Schmitz had anything to get the cat to leave its perch in the vehicle. Unless that cat enjoyed a framed landscape done in oil, Schmitz was not going to be of much help. However, she and Edsall, who works in the back half of the building, came out to investigate for themselves.

Walsh — who was both a little embarrassed and bit perplexed how a cat could have gotten stuck in her vehicle — was called out to unlock her car and pop the hood to locate the cat. After getting on their hands and knees, Schmitz and Edsall found the cat between the firewall and the engine compartment.

&uot;We were concerned the cat was stuck in the engine compartment,&uot; Schmitz said.

Finding a cat is one thing; getting it out of a tight spot turned out to be quite another.

This is where Edsall earned his &uot;hero&uot; status, Schmitz said. He grabbed the tabby by the tail and gently pulled it out.

It should be said that the cat was, according to Schmitz, &uot;dirty and scared and hungry and thirsty.&uot; It was also not amused and bit Schmitz on the finger.

Cooler heads prevailed, and the cat — estimated to be six to eight weeks old — was cleaned and fed and held affectionately.

Still, there was the matter of what to do with the newfound pet.

Swain had the answer: &uot;I had an older dog that got a little snappy and I had to get rid of him. I asked my husband if I could get a cat.&uot;

And then one appeared.

But there’s still the matter of caring for a stray cat that had just bitten a human finger.

Swain said she’s going to quarantine the cat indoors until it is about 12 weeks, then take it to the vet for shots and a general check-up, including determining its gender.

Schmitz is going to keep an eye on her finger and on the cat’s behavior in case any signs of the newcomer’s behavior indicate it has rabies.

Swain has already picked out a name: Wheelie. It fits the cat’s means of arrival in Franklin, and is also &uot;a non-gender name.&uot;

After what the cat’s been through, it probably doesn’t care too much about its name.