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[2009]   Due to all the televisions in New York, and the tendency of the networks to constantly repeat everything, one particular incident is now indelibly associated with this visit to the Big Apple.

A Mr Wilfred Rodriguez was driving in the Bronx when he noticed a strange rattling noise coming from his engine. Upon parking he saw a bushy tail and a paw sticking out the front end of his SUV. He feared the worst but then the paw moved and Mr Rodriguez realised there was hope for this misplaced kitty. The New York Police Department’s Emergency Service Unit was summoned and these experts in feline extraction rescued the cat by removing the battery and “other vehicle parts” (the TV did not say who put Mr Rodriguez’s car back together). The pictures of a tatty, grease- covered moggy were everywhere. The screen in my taxi showed the cat still in the engine looking very much like roadkill, and all New York was amazed that it survived without injury.

This does not always happen. Last year, in Malta, a kitten was discovered in a car engine and a vet was called. Sadly, the animal’s wounds were such that Dr Dolittle was obliged to euthanise the cute critter. This incident generated comment in the Times of Malta newspaper. There were some who felt that the kitten could have been spared the lethal injection and nursed lovingly back to health. There are Monday-morning quarterbacks everywhere it seems.

The other cat-in-engine stories that my research uncovered were happier. An eight week old ginger kitten was successfully rescued from a car engine somewhere in Britain (the report was a shoddy piece of journalism that gave the the cat’s age and colour but not location). In the city of Blythe in north-east England a pussy by the name of Tinker was retrieved from a Ford Galaxy. A crew from the Henry Volunteer Fire Station No. 6, in the aptly named town of Mechanicsville, Virginia, was obliged to take an engine to pieces to get at a seriously stuck black and white mouser. And yet another cat was very lucky when an alert Mr Ernesto Gonzalez of Miami, Florida, found it jammed in the engine of his minivan. There are at least five YouTube clips out there of cats being removed from motors in various parts of the world. And that’s just the cats. There were further reports of a rabbit, a pit bull and a boa constrictor that all managed to get into engine spaces too small for them.

Today’s lesson: Happiness is a warm engine block. Although rabbits would do well to remember that boa constrictor.