It’s like a children’s fairy tale: a hungry cat chases a rabbit into a hole — but then he can’t get out again.But this time it’s a true story.

Suzanne Engert was working in the yard of her Erie, Colo., home on Wednesday when she spotted something strange near a decorative cast-iron pipe behind her shed, and she went to investigate.

“This black cat was just laying there,” Engert said. “I must have walked past the cat a couple of times.”

Engert said it looked like the cat had been digging with his feet in an effort to free itself. She tried to extract the cat’s head from the pipe, but when she couldn’t get him out, she called for help.

Boulder County animal control officers came to investigate the scene, and they called in firefighters to cut away part of the pipe in hopes of making it easier to free the feline.

The rescuers tried using vegetable oil and soap to lubricate the tomcat’s head, but they still couldn’t remove him. Firefighters were afraid they might hurt the cat if they used rescue tools to cut the pipe in half, said Kim Sporrer, a spokesperson for the Humane Society of Boulder Valley.

“They couldn’t get the cat free, so they brought the whole works — the cat and the pipe — to the Humane Society of Boulder Valley,” Sporrer said.

But on the way to the Humane Society’s facility, Boulder County animal control officers Brandy Perkins and Sara Spensieri realized the cat wasn’t alone in the pipe.

“We were driving … and I see this thing flying around the back,” Perkins said.

Once they arrived at the Humane Society and opened the tailgate of the truck, the rabbit jumped out and fled into a field.

“Apparently the cat was chasing a rabbit and got its head stuck into the pipe,” Sporrer said. “How that rabbit stayed in the pipe after it was picked up and carried and put in the truck, I just dont know unless the cat had a grip on it.”

The feral bunny was free, but the cat was still stuck.

Vet staff then started working with Boulder firefighters and animal control officers to liberate the trapped cat.

They started by sedating the panicked feline. Then, after some gentle manipulations, the cat’s head popped out and the small crowd that had gathered to watch the rescue operation cheered.

Perkins nearly cried. “I’m really emotional,” she said. “You have to love animals to do this job.”

“He has some pretty bad scrapes on his head and face,” Sporrer said. But the cat was in stable condition on Wednesday afternoon.

Once he recovers, the cat, now named Squeeze, will get a behavioral evaluation. He didn’t have any collars or tags and he isn’t neutered, so the staff are not sure whether he is feral or just a stray cat that had a misadventure.

Once they determine whether or not Squeeze is adoptable, they will determine how to deal with the cat. They will also wait to see if an owner steps forward to reclaim him.

Sporrer said the cat will not be let free where it was found.

“Poor little guy,” said Engert. “I’m happy I found him in time.”

And the moral of the story is, “hungry, hungry makes a needy kitty.”

[Sources: 7News and the Daily Camera]