The mother cat had tucked her four kittens safely away from the elements under the protective cover of a cabinet which houses electrical equipment. They were discovered by Garry Black and Terry Amor, low voltage fitters for Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN), who were working near Albion Towers in the St Mary’s area of the city.
Garry explains: “Sometimes we’ll see birds and smaller animals around the substations as they can provide some warmth during winter months, but we didn’t expect to find five healthy felines when we removed the cabinet cover.
“We think the mother cat must have squeezed into the cabinet through the small ventilation gap at the bottom of the cabinet door before she had the kittens, as it would have been difficult for her to come in and out of the small space carrying each one after they were born.
“The mother and kittens were very calm, so after making sure all were safe and in no danger of coming into contact with electrical equipment we called Cats Protection, who were with us in half an hour.”
The mother, a three-year-old grey-blue British Shorthair, and four kittens no more than a couple of weeks old were taken immediately to Cats Protection’s Southampton Branch where they were all found to be in good health.
The two male and two female kittens originally appeared to be pale grey-blue like their mother but as they have grown, their true colouring has developed. Two of the kittens are black-and-white while the other two are dark grey and grey-and-white.
The branch searched social media and made enquiries around the local area but, with no evidence of a microchip, believed the cat to be a stray. It wasn’t until the mother was scanned again for a microchip at the vet a few weeks later that she was discovered to be a rare cat whose microchip had moved away from the usual area behind her head.
The branch’s welfare team leader Steve Ridd explains: “It’s extremely unusual for a microchip to move but luckily once we had the details, we were able to contact the owners and discovered their cat Bella had disappeared in May.
“They were delighted to have their cat back but had recently got another kitten because they believed Bella had gone forever and so asked us to rehome her kittens. Now ten weeks old, they have had their first vaccinations and have all been found new homes.”
Grey kitten Miloš and his black-and-white brother Luka were among the first to reach their new home. The duo’s owners have noticed that Miloš is the chief instigator of mischief and the pair are settling well. The kittens particularly enjoy playing with toy mice and feathers as well as eating and sleeping between play sessions.
Steve adds: “Luckily Bella’s owners are also booking her in to be neutered to avoid any surprise litters in the future. Her story not only highlights the need for full body scanning for microchips and the importance of keeping microchip details up to date but also how vital it is to have your cats neutered.”
Cats Protection advises cats should be neutered from four months old to avoid unexpected litters. Details about the benefits of neutering as well as financial assistance for those with a low income can be found at www.cats.org.uk/neutering or via its Neutering Line 03000 121212 (option 2).
Terry Amor added: “It’s great to see that Bella has now been returned home and that her kittens have found their fur-ever families. Garry and I knew as soon as we saw her that we had to do the best for her and her kittens, and it’s through Cat Protection’s perseverance in tracking the owner that we now have a happy ending for all.
“Substations can be dangerous places and are well secured to prevent access – deliberate or accidental – so we’re delighted to know that all five of our rescued felines are in good health, unharmed and that the kittens can now start their next adventure with their new owners.”
SSEN would like to stress the importance of never attempting to access substations or electrical equipment. Customers are advised to call the emergency freephone 105 number to report any damage to the network, or issues they see in relation to access, so engineers can attend at the earliest possible opportunity.