Updated 10 a.m.

A stray kitten is safe and warm today after a Racine woman Monday night pulled him from underneath a truck when she stopped for gas.

Naida Smith-Keech stopped at Speedway at Washington and Ohio around 5:30 p.m. Monday to get gas. When she got out of her car at the last pump, she said she could hear a cat howling, so she started looking around and asking other drivers if they could hear it and if the cat might be theirs.

“I know that sound because our cat howls like you wouldn’t believe whenever it’s in the car,” she said. “At first I thought maybe someone else’s cat was unhappy about being in a car, but then I got to the very first pump where a truck was parked.”

Smith-Keech said a man came out of the gas station store and told her that a cat was stuck under his truck and it had been there for a couple of days. He said he’d tried to lure it out with food but it wouldn’t budge.

“Then he told me he’d just gone through the car wash to try and flush it out,” she added. “I was stunned for a second because it was single digits for the actual temperature and with the wind, it had to be below zero and he took the truck through a car wash?”

Hearing this was bad enough, Smith-Keech said, but when the man got into his truck and started it up like he was just going to drive away, she was spurred to action.

“Other customers were standing around and starting to pay attention, I think, because several people looked just as surprised as I did when this guy started his truck like he was just going to drive away with a wet cat stuck under his truck,” she said. “So I got on the ground and started to crawl under the truck to get the cat.”

Smith-Keech’s action certainly got the man’s attention; he got out of his truck and gave her his phone to use as a light after she first asked her son to retrieve her phone for the same reason.

“I shone the light up and started calling it like, ‘come here, baby’ and making kissing noises,” she continued. “In a matter of seconds, this little face pops out and I knew right away this was a kitten.”

It took a little more coaxing, but the kitten ventured out far enough for Smith-Keech’s son to scoop it up. Once the cat was out from under the truck, she said the man said, “Merry Christmas” and then drove off.

“He immediately started purring so the man’s claims that the cat was wild were completely wrong,” she said.

Smith-Keech took the kitten home and cleaned him up a bit, drying him and giving him some food before taking him to the Stray Animals of Racine – Wisconsin Humane Society.

“He was so dirty and oily that we couldn’t tell he was black and white. He smelled like a garage,” she said. “Once we saw his coloring, we named him Sylvester from the old cartoons.”

By state law, Sylvester is on a seven-day stray hold. Angela Speed, spokesperson for WHS, said the kitten was given a clean bill of health Tuesday morning after an examination by a WHS vet. Assuming no one comes in to claim him, Sylvester will be available for adoption.

Smith-Keech is happy the little guy will have a chance at finding a forever family.

“He was so sweet and loving and friendly, there’s no way he’s a wild cat,” she said. “I hope he gets a great family because there is no way I was letting that guy leave (the station) with the cat still under his truck.”

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