Ryan Gibson caught a glimpse of what he presumed to be a rat during a routine cleaning of the garbage truck he took out on his Friday route.
Then he noticed the tail and knew it was not a rat but a kitten merely days old.
“I was scared. I was using the clean-out tool, I thought I had hurt them for sure,” said Gibson, who works for the City of Tacoma’s solid waste division. “I reached in and grabbed him, made sure he was OK and made him a little nest in the truck. Then I found the other kitten on the other side. I was seriously surprised.”
Gibson found the two kittens in the overflow area of the truck he drove on a route between South 12th Street and North 9th Street, a route with an animal shelter fewer than three miles away.
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He wasn’t the only one to stumble upon kittens tucked away in the back of the truck.
On Monday, solid waste worker Corey McBee was clearing recycling materials from the same truck when he made a check of an overflow space.
“That is when I saw one of the kittens,” McBee said Thursday. “I reached in there and pulled her out and grabbed a rag and put her in a rag. I didn’t know how moblie she was yet.”
After pulling the bloodied kitten out of the truck, McBee brought her inside and transferred her to solid waste staff, who got her a bottle and cared for her before taking her to the vet.
Hours later, he repeated the same process.
“I was like, ‘Oh no, are you kidding me? Is there another kitten in there?’ I couldn’t tell if it was birds crowing in the background or a cat,” said McBee.
To his surprise, another kitten sat in the overflow space, completely soaked in yard-debris waste. McBee said the only way he was able to see the kitten was when it opened its mouth to meow, showing its teeth.
The two kittens survived in the truck for several days in boiling temperatures with nothing other than garbage surrounding them.
Now, at just a half-pound and less than two weeks old, all four kittens are in good health, said Kristina Dwornick, Value Pet Clinic Tacoma hospital manager. Three of the kittens have been living with Jayme Roberts, garbage truck driver for the city, and the injured black kitten with Dwornick as it recovers.
The kitten found by McBee on Monday is recovering from injuries, stiches seaming up the wound. Two of the other kittens are on antibiotics for a respiratory infection, according to Dwornick.
“They are doing really well for the conditions they were in,” said Dwornick. “They are thriving. They are eating finally. They are all doing really well.”
In a few months, all of the kittens will be going to their new home. Roberts said two homes already are lined up for the kittens, making sure they can stay together in pairs.
“They have come such a long ways,” said Roberts. “The first 36 hours, the guys at the dump, we were just crying over it. Everybody was crying over it. Just the cruelty. It is just dumbfounding.”
The person who put the kittens into the garbage has not been identified.
As the kittens continue to recover, Roberts said they will continue to stay with her. Around $1,400 has been raised to pay for the medical bills and wellness of the kittens.
“How they made it through the weekend, that any of them survived is an absolute miracle,” said Roberts. “It is just a miracle. It is an absolute miracle that they made it.”
Meredith Spelbring: firstname.lastname@example.org, 253-597-8509, @mere0415