Just as neighbors have been known to put aside their differences to help each other during a natural disaster, search and rescue teams recently found a heartwarming example of two mortal cat enemies doing the same.

And a tiny kitten is alive because of it.

Rescued From the Rubble
On May 20, a devastating tornado
ripped through Moore,Okla., leaving in its wake utter chaos and destruction. The next night, rescuers digging through the debris saved what appeared to be a rather large housecat. The seemingly portly pussycat was soaked to the bone, curled up in a ball and clearly in shock when rescuers delivered it to the emergency shelter at the Central Oklahoma Humane Society in Oklahoma City. It was there that Veterinary Assistant Sabrina Cantrell, 40, took over. 

“The cat was covered in dirt and debris and wood splinters,” Cantrell said. “I thought the cat was injured, then I went to examine it and I saw a little head with two little beady eyes pop up covered in mud, and I realized the larger cat was clinging onto a kitten.”

It turned out the fat cat who was rescued was actually a skinny cat latched onto an emaciated kitten. Cantrell, who lives in nearby Mustang, Okla., and the rest of the staff assumed they had come across a mother cat/kitten combination. After washing the mud off the larger cat, Cantrell, who is also a registered nurse, was shocked to find out that it was a “he” and not a “she.”

“Usually males don’t have that kind of affection toward infants,” she says.

An Unlikely Pair
Affection turned out to be an overstatement, as the two cats had to literally be pried from each other’s grip. The male cat turned out to be one of thousands of feral cats that populate the Oklahoma City area. "I could not get the baby away from him,” said Cantrell. “They were holding onto each other for dear life. It made me cry. It was not even 24 hours after the tornado, so we were working around the clock. It brought to light the devastation out there. It was touching. I broke down a bit, gathered myself and got back to work."

In any other situation, male feral cats — commonly known as tomcats — would be aggressive toward, or even kill, kittens, which made the pair quite an odd couple. But just as people put their differences aside to help each other in an emergency, the tomcat came to the rescue of the tiny kitty in distress. Cantrell believes the kitten was separated from his mother during the storm and cried out to find her. She thinks the male cat must have heard his cry and come to his aid. "He was protecting the kitten from the chaos around him,” she said. “We really think he was trying to hide the kitten and keep him safe.”

Life After the Storm
Both cats were immediately administered fluids, cleaned up and fed.  The kitten barely clung to life. For the next week, Cantrell fed the four-week old every three hours, around the clock. “I took him home with me every night,” she says. “I would get up in the middle of the night and bottle feed him. He was extremely skinny, had runny eyes and an upper respiratory infection.”

The two cats have both recovered and will each find a good home. The feral cat has already been pre-adopted and will go to a farm, part of OK Humane’s Barn Buddies Program, which sends unsocial cats to farms where they can live outdoors.

The kitten will have a little while longer to wait before finding a home, since The Humane Society has a 45-day waiting period before adopting out animals in order to give owners enough time to claim their pets.

Cantrell credits the feral cat for saving the pint-sized kitten’s life. “He was sick and distressed from being pounded by the storm and buried in the rubble,” she said. “I don’t know that he would have made it through another night out there.”