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Clandestine kittens make home in general's car while he's away

Phillip Remel, CSC pest management, attempts to encourage one of the kittens to exit the engine block, but the young feline had no intention of leaving, retreating behind the engine.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Steve Pivnick)

Phillip Remel, CSC pest management, attempts to encourage one of the kittens to exit the engine block, but the young feline had no intention of leaving, retreating behind the engine. (U.S. Air Force photo by Steve Pivnick)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- "While the general's away, the cats will play."

Maybe that's what a couple of kittens were thinking when they decided to roost in the 81st Medical Group commander's staff car.

Bruce Dye, a member of the 81st Medical Support Squadron medical information management flight, was reporting to work Aug. 14 and happened to notice at least one kitten peering at him from the grill of Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Kory Cornum's vehicle. The "Dragon Medic" commander was off station on a temporary duty assignment. Dye contacted another squadron member who alerted the commander's secretary. She called CSC pest management.

A CSC pest management team consisting of Phillip Remel and Michael Thomas arrived around 9 a.m. Aug. 15 to try to extricate the young felines -- and perhaps their mother -- from the car's engine compartment. (They later assumed "momma" had run off.) The two kittens -- one orange, the other grey tabbies -- eluded the erstwhile team that tried to capture them using a snare and net. One of the cats did run from the car and cowered by a nearby wall. The pest management crew tried to capture it in the net only to find it had a hole in it through which the "young 'un" escaped and returned to the sanctuary of the engine block.

Remel and Thomas believe the cat family may be the same one that has been seen outside the 81st Medical Support Squadron's logistics warehouse.

After several more attempts to catch the elusive citters, Remel and Thomas eft, planning to check back after lunch and see if they might have better luck then. But, alas, the kittens were able to elude capture. Apparently, they realized they were "home free" because as Chief Master Sgt. Michael Anderson, 81st MDG superintendent, left for the day, he saw them "lounging" under the staff car. They were seen early the next morning relaxing on the steps leading to the hospital's A tower.

Staff Sgt. Tawnie Miller, 81st MDG, was concerned about the safety of the kittens and their mother and began asking around the group command area to see if she could find someone who might adopt them. One member stepped up and volunteered to take them home--Staff Sgt. Oscar Rodriguez, 81st Aerospace Medicine Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge.

He brought two pet carriers in the next day and that afternoon "popped the hood" trying to find the cat family.

Unfortunately, they had already vacated the premises. Rodriguez planned to look for them in the early evening, capture them and take them home. Regrettably, they weren't there, so he decided to try again Aug. 17. After learning the wayward kitties had been seen sleeping in the car's grill early on Aug. 17, the cat wrangler again went to the staff car to try to snare
them -- they weren't there. So, he moved the car to the hospital parking lot in the hope the kittens would return to the ramp area where he would -- once more -- attempt to entice them nto the pet carriers. Sergeant Rodriguez deployed Aug. 18 for a week-long medical exercise and hoped to continue his efforts when he returned. As of Tuesday, the wayward kittens were still at large.

Why had Rodriguez decided to rescue the kittens? He explained, "Anyone who loves animals would hate to have something happen to them."