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Little Jonah may not have been swallowed by a whale, but he certainly had a close brush with death in a watery grave.

Fortunately for the little guy, a brave Irishman was willing to take a swim in order to save his life.

Last Thursday, a motorcyclist saw a man throwing a litter of five kittens off a bridge, one by one, into the River Faughan in Drumhoe, Ireland. Not one to stand by and watch an act of senseless cruelty, the rider shouted at the kitten tosser to stop.

The man ignored the motorcyclist’s entreaties and kept dropping the kittens into the water, so he jumped off his bike and ran into the river to rescue the tiny felines.

He caught one, a cute white boy with black spots, but unfortunately the other four were washed away in the rapidly running current before he could save them.

After the soaking wet motorcyclist waded back out of the river, his brother took the frightened and half-drowned kitten to the Rainbow Rehoming Centre in Derry, where the staff dried him off and made sure his unplanned swim hadn’t caused any immediate health problems.

Rainbow Centre staff dubbed the kitten Jonah and estimated his age at about 12 or 13 weeks.

“There is no excuse for such acts of despicable cruelty,” said Joanne Mullan of the Rainbow Centre, particularly because there is a veterinary clinic very close to the bridge where the kittens were tossed to their death and he could have left them there instead.

The motorcyclist, who did not want to be identified by name, has always been an animal lover, his brother said. “I am very proud of him for what he did and at least he managed to save one of the kittens.”

Rainbow Centre staff are also grateful for the kindness of the passer-by who was willing to risk his own life to save the kittens. They are looking for information on the identity of the man responsible for the kittens’ deaths.

Yesterday, Life With Cats posted a follow-up to this story. A woman has come forward stating that she believed Jonah to be a kitten she had given away on Gumtree, a classified ad listing site similar to Craigslist. She still had the man’s cell phone number, which she has provided to the Rainbow Centre; if it turns out he is the guilty party, this is a good lesson about the perils of rehoming cats through online classified ad sites.