Infant Kitten Survives Dance with Death


You’d never know that the tiny white fluffball batting at a feather toy with his oversize paws had almost become “kitten sushi” at a Waterloo, Iowa, recycling plant.

But it’s true, says recycling center employee Gene Dettmer. In fact, if it hadn’t been for a sharp-eyed woman working the center’s main sorting line, the kitten, who was so young his eyes weren’t even open yet, would have plunged 20 feet into a giant compactor — and met a grisly fate.

How the kitten survived his journey is a miracle in itself.

Imagine, if you will, that your alley-cat mother has recently given birth to you and your siblings, and you’ve spent the first days of your life in the comfort of a nice warm recycling bin. Mom is out enjoying a nice hunt, hoping she can feed herself so she can feed you when suddenly your world is filled with noise and you get dizzy as your nest goes flying.

Somehow you survive being squished within an inch of your life in a garbage truck compactor. Then, despite the fact that you can’t see, you manage to avoid being run over by the forklifts and skid loaders flying back and forth across a cold concrete warehouse floor. You survive the crushing claws of a loader as your pile of recyclables is dropped onto a giant conveyor belt, where you bump along across massive steel rollers that are sorting recyclables from dirt. And then you’re whisked away and held close to a warm chest. As you feel the beating of a giant heart within, your own panicked breathing begins to slow, and perhaps you even let out a tiny purr and mew.

The woman who saved the baby’s life took him home and fed him with a bottle while her dog took care of the rest of the mothering duties until the recycling center staffer could no longer take care of him.

At that point, Dettmer stepped in again. He knew his brother, Dennis, would fall head over heels for the sweet polydactyl kitten, especially after he heard about the perilous journey the helpless infant had survived.

He was right. Dennis adopted the kitten last week and named him Taz — perhaps in homage to the whirling, growling Warner Bros. cartoon character — and took him to a veterinarian, where he got a fairly clean bill of health, considering his recent ordeal.

Although many abandoned animals pass through the recycling center, neither the Dettmers nor center supervisor Dan Reynolds think Taz had been tossed in the trash. More likely, they believe, the kitten’s mother just made a poor choice for a kittening box. Whether Taz has (or had) siblings and where the mother cat may be — well, that’s still a mystery.

In any case, Gene Dettmer says, “It’s just miraculous that [Taz] made it, considering everything he had to go through.”

Many happy purrs to you, Taz. You must be a pretty special kitten with an important reason for being here if you managed to survive all that!

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