It was very late when the phone rang. A chap, on his way home from the pub (after what must have been a fairly long lock-in) had spotted an injured cat pulling itself into a bush. Judging by the slur in his voice as he explained what he had seen, I suspected he was meandering rather than walking home.
“There’s a cat,” he said slowly and carefully, “I think it’s been hit by a car. It’s under a hedge. Can you come and help it?”
I’d been in this position before, called to help an injured animal in the darkness of a North Yorkshire night, only for the patient to slip silently away before I arrived. Injured animals are often bewildered and frightened and their reaction is to run and hide. The most memorable of these incidents occurred many years ago, when my oldest son was a tiny baby.
The windows of opportunity for sleep were short; two-hour stretches at most, and in one of these windows, in the early hours of the morning, my pager went off. A traffic policeman had spotted a badger, sitting by the side of the road looking stunned. Despite my assurance that the wild creature was likely to run away before I could get there, the policeman was most insistent I attend.
I dragged myself out of bed and set off. By the time I had made the 20-minute journey to the stricken badger, it had got up, shaken itself and waddled off into the depths of the night. By the time I got home, baby Jack was awake again!
Anyway, I established the likely whereabouts of tonight’s cat and agreed to go and see if it could be captured. Even if an injured animal doesn’t run away, catching it is not always easy, especially in the darkness of the bottom of a hedge.
I called at the practice to collect baskets, blankets, towels, painkillers and sedatives, and crossed my fingers.
The first job was to find the animal rescuer. This was easy. He was leaning against a lamppost, which was next to a hedge. His directions had been accurate.
“It’s in here,” he said, pointing to the aforementioned hedge.
We searched the hedge, without any success so I broadened the net, so to speak, casting my torch around the area and peering under a couple of nearby cars. There it was, sad and forlorn and immobile.
The village was silent and all the houses were dark. I didn’t fancy knocking on doors to ask people to move their vehicles so I could get to the patient.
We set about trying to persuade the cat to come out from underneath the car, using long twigs from the hedge. The cat moved but not sufficiently for either of us to grab it. This continued for many minutes without any progress.
The man started throwing small pebbles, but the cat stubbornly stayed put.
Eventually, it made a bid for freedom and lurched, dragging its back legs, back to the hedge, where it jammed itself into the base of a privet bush. Using a blanket to improve my chances of grabbing it and to protect my hands from bites or scratches, I managed to scoop up the injured animal and bundle it into the basket I’d brought.
“Thank you for coming,” said the man, shaking my hand warmly, “I feel better now. I’m glad we’ve helped.”
“Thank you for calling me,” I said. “I’ll take him (or her) back to the practice and have a look at the injuries. Then I’ll try and trace the owner and work out what to do next.”
Hopefully, it would have a microchip, and would be back with its owners very soon.
The new series of The Yorkshire Vet is on Tuesday at 9pm on Channel 5.