Near cat-astrophe: Kitten halts Bronx train Thursday morning

A kitten is rescued from a Metro-North rail line on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022.
A kitten is rescued from a Metro-North rail line on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022.
Courtesy John DeBacker

Passengers aboard the Metro-North Harlem Line were stopped in their tracks Thursday morning while traveling southbound through the Bronx as they waited for an out-of-the-ordinary rescue along the tracks. 

According to the MTA, the engineer of the 9:40 a.m. train from North White Plains to Grand Central Terminal reported a cat near the tracks at the Fordham station. Meanwhile John DeBacker, the vice president of Long Island Cat Kitten Solution, told the Bronx Times that he was dispatched to the railway near Park Avenue and 188th Street in Belmont after two passersby heard baby kitten meows coming from the tracks and called the organization.

DeBacker said when he arrived at the scene he tried to talk to an employee about stopping any oncoming train traffic. 

“We talked to train conductors, but unfortunately they couldn’t help,” he said. 

Eventually, DeBacker said he and a friend were able to flag down a few nearby MTA officers, who assisted them in cutting power to the Metro-North line in order to temporarily halt any train activity. According to the MTA, the line was only held for about 10 minutes and there were no further delays as a result of the incident.  

Officials rescue a kitten from a Metro-North rail line on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022.
Officials rescue a kitten from a Metro-North rail line in Belmont section of the Bronx on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022.Photo courtesy John DeBacker

DeBacker and MTA officers safely recovered the less than three pound, white-and-orange-striped kitty from Track 4.

While DeBacker said he has heard of kittens and cats making their way onto train tracks, this was his first personal rescue of this nature. 

He focuses on animal rescue full time, and has been dubbed a kind of cat whisperer by some. Last year, DeBacker led search efforts to return a cat to its home in Mastic Beach after it escaped from its carrier on a flight to Italy and spent three weeks meandering John F. Kennedy International Airport. DeBacker said he encourages people to call in if they see an animal in distress. 

“Don’t just ignore an animal in need,” he said.

DeBacker said the 6-week-old kitty rescued along the Metro-North rail Thursday morning is now safely at Last Hope Inc. Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation. 

“We commend the vigilance of the engineer for spotting the small kitten near the tracks and the collaborative effort between MTAPD officers and all Metro-North employees involved, both on scene and behind, to rescue the kitten,” said MTA spokesperson Joana Flores in a statement. “Because of their actions, the little kitten is now safe in an animal shelter, waiting to be adopted by a family and taken to its forever home.”

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the kitten was rescued and taken to the Long Island Cat Kitten Solution. The kitten was brought to Last Hope Inc. Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation on Long Island. This story was updated at 9:22 a.m. on Nov. 7.   

Reach Camille Botello at [email protected]. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes