More than 1m calls are made to the RSPCA each year to report animals in need of help - here the charity reflects on some of the most surprising and unusual!
RSPCA officers never know what they might face when they are called out to help animals in need - whether it’s a cat in a sofa, a snake in a dishwasher or a squirrel in the loo.
Here, we look back on some of the animal charity’s most surprising rescues of 2018…
1.‘Help! I’m wheely stuck!’
A fox cub who got his head stuck in the hole of an abandoned car wheel was rescued by the RSPCA with the help of vegetable oil! A local spotted the struggling cub on 16 June in Leyton, London, and RSPCA Inspector Kate Ford arrived to lend a hand. She said: “This poor little fox cub was in a complete pickle. He had somehow managed to jam his head through the hole in an old car wheel and was stuck fast. He was beginning to panic and I knew we needed to work quickly. I tried to ease his head back through the hole, but it just wouldn’t go. He clearly needed some lubrication, so I used some cooking oil which the animal-loving resident had retrieved from his house - and that did the trick! Happily, he was none the worse for his ordeal and soon ran off, hopefully to be reunited with his family.”
2. Urine trouble!
An RSPCA officer was feeling flush after rescuing a distressed squirrel who had found himself stuck - in a toilet! Animal collection officer Kirstie Gillard was called on May 13 by worried students in a shared house in Southwark, London, when they found the squirrel stuck in their toilet. The plucky rodent gripped onto a mop handle and was lifted out of the toilet before being cleaned off, dried and released. She said: “Fortunately the squirrel wasn’t injured at all and I could release him back into the wild where he belongs. I think he must have come into this house through the roof and slipped into the toilet. It was certainly one of the most unusual rescues I’ve ever carried out - I’m sure it’s one the squirrel ‘walnut’ forget in a hurry!”
3. Paw pooch
Verity O’Neill woke with a start on 27 March when she heard the cries of her eight-week-old Yorkshire terrier puppy Ringo Starr. She rushed downstairs to find the silly pup stuck with his head in a wooden TV cabinet! When Verity couldn’t free the stricken dog she called in help from RSPCA Inspector Anthony Joynes who rushed to the home in Birkenhead, Merseyside. He said: “Poor Ringo Starr was very uncomfortable and panicked, but the hole was fairly tight and I wasn’t able to free him at first, so with his owner’s permission we quickly grabbed some vegetable oil from the kitchen to gently rub around his neck to help loosen him, and with some very careful maneuvering, Ringo’s head slid out of the cabinet and he was free.” The took the pup to a local vet for a check-up and bath but the plucky pooch was fine and was soon home with his owner again.
4. Cornsnakes for breakfast
A man had a fright when he sat down to eat his breakfast - and a snake slithered out of the cereal box and into the dishwasher! RSPCA animal collection officer Katie Hetherington was called to the man’s home in Sheffield, Yorkshire, to rescue the snake on 19 May. She said: “I think he was expecting to have Cornflakes for breakfast - not Cornsnakes! The poor chap was absolutely terrified - I think it was the last thing he expected to find in his kitchen!” The 3ft-long snake, believed to be an escaped pet, was taken to a specialist centre.
5. Curious cat
A family had a shock when they found a stray cat wedged inside their reclining sofa. The curious puss wandered into the home in Bristol and hid under the sofa but she got stuck in the mechanism when the children reclined the chair and her tail got caught. RSPCA Inspector Simon Coombs was called to lend a hand on 19 January. He said: “The sofa was electric, the kids sat on it and pressed the button to move it not knowing the cat was underneath. The tail was obviously resting on the mechanism and, as the spindle started rotating, the fur became trapped. The homeowner had the right tools and set about dismantling the sofa while I helped keep hold of the cat and keep her calm. Luckily, we were able to free her and she was absolutely fine, if a little shaken up.” The frightened cat dashed outside and the family agreed to keep feeding her.
6. For fox sake!
A fox found himself in a spot of bother after falling into an enclosed garden - and getting his head stuck in wooden trellis panelling. RSPCA Inspector Karl Marston was called out to a home in Loughton, Essex, on 1 March to help the fox who had fallen off a 7ft-high wall and couldn’t find his way out of the courtyard. “The outdoor space was surrounded by 7ft walls with 2ft of trellis on top so it may well have been tricky for the fox to have escaped on his own - especially because of the snowy and icy conditions. It was extremely cold and the fox was quite young so would have been vulnerable if he was left stuck there, exposed to the elements.” But as he tried to catch the fox, the youngster panicked, scaled the wall and got stuck in the trellis! Luckily, this made it easier for Inspector Marston to catch the fox, free him and release him nearby.
7. Oh deer!
A young muntjac deer needed a helping hand from the RSPCA when he became trapped upside-down between two walls in Bedworth, Warwickshire. Animal Collection Officer (ACO) Adam McConkey was called out to the house on 13 March.
He said: “The poor little chap looked very uncomfortable and was probably disoriented. We think he somehow climbed up onto the garage roof, but then lost his footing and fell off the edge. We found him upside-down and stuck tight between the garage wall and the house. It was such a narrow space, he couldn’t move an inch.” Using a grasper, ACO McConkey managed to ease the deer out of the space. Thankfully, apart from a minor graze on his leg, he wasn’t injured and was released in some nearby woods.
8. Purr-fect rescue
A pretty puss ended up in a tight spot after wandering into a hotel to escape the cold and rain. Staff at Premier Inn, in Luton, Bedfordshire, called the RSPCA on 28 March as they were concerned the cat was stuck in a gap between two electric doors. Animal collection officer (ACO) Kate Wright, who rushed to the scene, said: “He had crawled into a narrow gap between the two automatic glass doors and plonked himself down. I’m not sure whether he was actually trapped or whether he was just trying to find someone safe to rest. He was soaking wet and freezing cold and had been trying to find somewhere warm and dry to curl up - unfortunately he chose a rather hazardous spot!” She managed to pull the cat - nicknamed Lenny by staff - free and took him to a local vet for a check-up before setting about to find his owners.
9. Are you kidding?
It was a baaaaaad day for a goat who got her head stuck between the bars of a metal fence. A member of public spotted the distressed goat in Norton, Stockton-on-Tees, in County Durham, on 12 May and contacted the RSPCA for help. Animal collection officer Emily Welch said: “The goats were kept in an enclosure but had somehow got out twice in one day and, the second time, this poor goat managed to get her head stuck in the metal fence. She was struggling to free herself and she had her kid with her who was also very distressed.” By digging the dirt underneath the fence, she was able to make enough space to carefully push the goat free. The animals were moved to another enclosure so they couldn’t get into trouble again!
10. Greedy does it
A greedy badger ended up in a bit of an embarrassing predicament after climbing a tree to nibble on some fruit - before slipping and getting wedged between branches. A man spotted the stricken badger in Harefield, London, on 16 August and called in RSPCA Inspector Callum Isitt. He said: “The badger was in a walled garden full of vegetable plots and fruit trees so it must have been very tempting for him. I suspect he’d been trying to climb the plum tree to get to the ripe, juicy fruits when he slipped and trapped his front leg in the ‘v’ where the two small branches met about 3ft off the ground. He was left dangling there and was obviously in some distress.” Inspector Isitt managed to free the badger and took him to the RSPCA’s Putney Animal Hospital for treatment for an injured leg.
11. Horny hedgehogs
Two frisky hedgehogs needed help after falling into a cattle grid while mating! A woman spotted the hogs when her dog alerted her to them. She called the RSPCA for help on 9 May when she couldn’t reach them to free them. Inspector Nicky Foster headed to Harbury, in Warwickshire, to help. She said: “The gaps between the metal grid bars were too small for me to pull the hedgehogs free so I contacted Warwickshire Fire & Rescue Service who were able to use their specialist equipment to bend the bars so I could pluck the hogs to safety. We gave them both some food and water and checked them over. Luckily, they hadn’t been injured so we were able to release them into the bushes there and then. Warwickshire Fire & Rescue Service area commander Dave Pemberton said: “We are hopeful that the hedgehogs will have learnt from their ordeal and that they won't hog the limelight again any time soon!”
12. One life down...
A ginger puss used one of his nine lives after falling onto metal railings in London. The cat was found in the early hours of the morning on 9 March impaled on the 8ft railings in Cricklewood. RSPCA Chief Inspector Nicole Broster rushed to the scene, fearing the worst. She said: “When I took the emergency call about a cat impaled on fence posts, I was extremely worried and couldn’t believe that the cat was still alive. When I got there I was incredibly shocked - in all my years with the RSPCA I have never seen anything like it. This poor cat literally had two metal posts protruding through his body.” She called the London Fire Brigade for help and they used their specialist equipment to cut the railings and transport the cat - still impaled on the spikes - to a nearby vets where he was rushed into emergency surgery. Miraculously, the railings had narrowly missed his vital organs. After extensive media coverage, his owners were found and were reunited with Skittles.
13. Wheelie embarrassing!
A Somerset couple had a shock when they discovered a badger in their bin as they took the rubbish out! RSPCA animal collection officer Clara Scully was called on 6 September to Crewkerne to help the badger. “The bin was in the couple’s garden,” she said. “There was garden equipment that had been knocked over behind the bin and it was stored beside a shed so I think the badger had run along the back of the shed and, searching for food, either fell into the bin while following his nose or tried to climb down onto it and slipped! I think they had quite the fright when they peered in and saw him staring back up at them, covered in waste!” She took the badger to West Hatch Wildlife Centre, in nearby Taunton, to be assessed and prepared for a nighttime release.
A fox was found wedged in a front car grille more than 12 hours after being hit in an accident. The poor fox was spotted on 9 September - a day after the motorist hit something while driving in Hertfordshire. RSPCA animal collection officer Amy Reiter was called to Letchworth Garden City to help the stricken fox. She said: “The lad had hit a fox during the early hours of the morning and thought it went under his vehicle. He hadn’t realised the fox had survived the accident and had no idea it had, in fact, got stuck in the car. The following day, when he went to check his car for damage, he found the fox alive and wedged in the car grille! The fox didn’t want us to go anywhere near him and I couldn’t wrap him in a towel due to how he was stuck so I had to use my grasper to get hold of him - without getting bitten! - and carefully pull him free. As if by miracle, he had no serious injuries!” He was taken back to the area where the accident happened and released at a safe common nearby.
15. Sting in his step
The RSPCA got called out to deal with an unexpected guest who turned up at a Birmingham hotel - a scorpion! The creature was spotted scuttling around the third floor of the Hyatt Regency Hotel, in Birmingham, by a guest on 13 September. Brave staff carefully captured the scorpion - nicknamed Pepe - in a glass and called the RSPCA. Animal collection officer Vic Hurr went to collect the critter and transport him safely to a specialist. She said: “The scorpion was only small but he was a feisty little thing. We think he must have come out of some luggage and probably travelled thousands of miles so he certainly had an adventure.” The scorpion is believed to be a mildly venomous.
A kitten called Spock got his head stuck in a small hole in the back of a kitchen cupboard and had to be rescued by the fire services and RSPCA. The 15-week-old male tabby kitten got stuck on 19 September at his home in Bolton, Greater Manchester. His owner Heather Shiels said: “I went downstairs and I could hear meowing. I opened the cupboard next to it and realised he was in there. I could only see his backend as his head was stuck in a small hole in the back of the cupboard where the plug for the dishwasher goes. I will never know how he even managed to get his head through, the hole is only about 2 or 3ins wide.” They tried to free him but he was very distressed so they called RSPCA Inspector Angela Paxton-Taylor for help. They lubricated his neck with margarine and oil before contacting the fire service who were able to cut him free after two hours firmly stuck!
17. Snake and chips
An elderly couple were shocked when they went to cook some chips in their oven and were greeted by a 3ft-long snake! They called an RSPCA but the snake was nowhere to be found. Two days later, on 28 September, they went to cook again and the African brown house snake appeared again! Inspector Andy Harris went to the home, in Stockport, Greater Manchester, and found the non-venomous snake. He said: “I managed to coax the snake from the oven and was able to safely get hold of it with specialist equipment and then contain it securely. It must have squeezed through a wall cavity of this couple’s home and there is a hole at the back of the oven where the gas jets come up so was probably attracted by the warmth. It was lucky the couple didn’t pre-heat the oven first.” The 82-year-old resident, who doesn’t want to be named, said: “When I opened the oven door and saw it I got the shock of my life. I have recently had a cataract operation and was wondering if my eyes were deceiving me - but my husband saw it too. We are big animal lovers and just wanted to make sure the snake was safe so we were pleased that he was rescued by the RSPCA. I gave the inspector a big hug and a cup of tea afterwards but I went off the idea of oven chips so sent my husband to the Fish and Chip shop instead!”
18. I’m a hamster, get me out of here!
A hamster who found himself wedged in a tiny pipe for almost a week was freed thanks to an ingenious invention by an RSPCA officer. Jamie was stuck fast after escaping his cage in Bridgwater in Somerset. Animal welfare officer Alison Sparkes was called in to help on 15 November - with a tiny hand-crafted ladder she created especially for Jamie’s rescue! “Jamie was being looking after by a friend of his owner when he escaped and went down a 10cm-wide pipe that housed the water pipes,” she said. “We knew he was ok as they’d been dropping food down and could hear him eating so I went home and cut a 1m-long ladder from some old wire mesh, then went back, fitted it in the pipe and that evening he emerged. Very thirsty, but ok.”
19. Ruff day!
A Welsh bulldog had a ruff day after getting stuck in a back garden between a wall and fence! RSPCA officers Julie Fadden and Ellie West were called to help the stricken pooch on 20 November in Heol Cleddau in Waunarlwydd. The rescue was caught on camera as Roxy was freed and checked for any injuries. Animal collection officer West said: “Poor Roxy was unable to move free – but she was very calm, and seemed remarkably pleased with herself to have got into such a pickle! Thankfully, we were quickly able to get to her, securely pull her from the tight gap, and return her to her very relieved owners.”
20. Butterly crazy!
An RSPCA officer had to think on his feet and use everyday kitchen objects to free a curious cat who got wedged inside a tumble dryer air vent at her home in Kidderminster, Worcestershire, on 6 December! The black and white puss got stuck after crawling inside the 6in-wide pipe. RSPCA animal collection officer Glenn Baird had to use butter to free her. He said: “I put butter inside the pipe using a lolly stick, removed the vent cover with my hammer and pushed her. Luckily, she slid right out!” Thankfully, the cat wasn’t injured and her owners were relieved to have her out.
These are just a handful of the thousands of animals the RSPCA has helped throughout the year.