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A cat-loving engineer dismantled a car to save a kitten with a broken leg at the Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose in Cornwall

Leonardo Helicopters Engineer Adam Hughes was returning from work at the Royal Navy’s helicopter base near Helston when he saw what he believed was a piece of cardboard on the inner perimeter road of the airfield.

Only when it moved did he realise it was a small, injured kitten dragging her back leg behind her as she ran.

brown tabby kitten lying on blue towel

“I was going home to comfort my family because we had lost our own cat Orlando to renal failure the day before,” said Adam.

“He had been a much-loved part of the family and really helped my daughter’s mental health during lockdown. There was no way I was going to leave a potentially injured kitten behind.”

To prevent the kitten from being in further pain or danger, Adam got out of his car to pick her up, but she limped quickly away and escaped under a parked Volkswagen Golf on the opposite side of the road.

As Adam approached, along with two junior aircrew who had spotted the kitten’s attempts to run and stopped to help, the small grey-brown tabby jumped onto the exhaust pipe and into the car’s engine chamber.

Person lying on floor under a blue car while another person looks under the bonnetAdam and two Royal Navy aircrew trying to find the kitten inside the car. Credit: Martyn Collick

Despite the trio searching under the car and wheel arches with their phone torches, the tiny feline was nowhere to be seen.

The car’s owner was in a nearby hangar and, with the help of tools from a passing lorry driver who spotted the commotion, Adam was given permission to dismantle the car as necessary.

After removing the turbo charger and pipework, then jacking-up the car to remove the base panels, the kitten was discovered inside a tiny hole between the wheel arch and liner.

brown tabby kitten inside the engine space of a carThe kitten peeking out from inside the car's engine space. Credit: Martyn Collick

“Luckily it was an older car so we could peel the liner back and when we did one of the aircrew was able to reach in to get hold of the kitten’s tail and unharmed back leg,” said Adam. “Very gently, but with much squealing from the kitten, we were able to get her out.

“I rang my wife Helen and daughter Lucy and asked them to get Orlando’s cat box ready because I was bringing home an injured kitten. Understandably we were all very emotional but as a family we never give up on animals and just do our best wherever we can.”

Adam called our Cornwall Adoption Centre for help, having adopted Orlando from the centre 11 years previously.

Upon arrival at the centre, it was clear the kitten was no more than eight weeks old and had a broken leg. She was rushed to the vets for emergency surgery to amputate her leg and give her the best chance of survival and quality of life.

brown tabby kitten lying on someone's lapFergie the kitten snoozing on her fosterer's lap

Now recovering well, the team at the centre have named the kitten Fergie, in a nod to the airbase where she was found and inspired by the Budgie the Little Helicopter books written by Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York.

Centre Manager Samantha Lawton said: “We’re so grateful to Adam and everyone who helped save Fergie. She will have been in a lot of pain with her leg and it’s unlikely she would have survived without Adam’s help.

“We believe she is one of three stray kittens that we had heard about on RNAS Culdrose and had been arranging to catch.

“Little Fergie is now with an experienced fosterer and learning how to walk as a tripod, or three-legged, cat and how to play with fishing rod toys, ping-pong balls and toy mice.

“She has a long journey ahead of her, but has already shown she is a brave fighter and is beginning to really enjoy being among people and home-comforts.”

Fergie will be neutered, vaccinated and microchipped while in care then once she is fully healed and ready for homing her details will be posted on the centre’s website.

Fergie’s vet care, surgery and after-care have cost over £700 so far and anyone wishing to help contribute towards her care can visit the JustGiving appeal.

Any funds raised above the target will be put towards the care of other cats and kittens at the centre.

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