EDMONTON — This cat may have used up more than one of its nine lives.
A Canadian National Railway conductor was checking the engines on his train early Sunday in Wainwright, Alta., when he heard a pathetic cry.
"So I'm shining my light and I find him under the second engine above the wheels on a steel platform covered with ice and snow,'' said Brad Slater.
He called his engineer, Will Munsey, to tell him he'd found something.
'I can't leave him.'
"I said right to Will, 'I can't leave him.' I can't imagine leaving him to die, and going 10 hours on that train, not knowing. How could anybody do that?''
Slater called the cat, which jumped right into his arms, and brought him into the cab of train Q199.
He wrapped him in a T-shirt from his bag, slowly peeled off the ice that covered the feline, and gave the cat some water and bits of beef jerky that he had.
The cat "scarfed'' both up and "slept behind my back the whole way back to Edmonton,'' Slater said.
When he got off duty, he called his wife, who came with a cat carrier and together they brought the cat home, even though they have three felines already.
Slater said he gave the cat, who he's named Q199, a bath and took him to the vet Monday.
"I slept with him last night. He slept right by my chest all night,'' Slater said. "He's a purr machine.''
Q199 has lost three-quarters of one ear and might lose some of the other one because he was so badly frostbitten.
Other than that, the vet — who waived the checkup fee — gave him a clean bill of health.
Slater — who is now being called Old Softy Slater by everyone at CN — says he has posted on Saskatoon missing pet pages, because he believes Q199 got on the train in that city and belongs to someone because he is so affectionate. The cat doesn't have a microchip or a tattoo to help find his owners.
"It's a miracle. There's no other way to put this. The train was doing 60 miles per hour and he's underneath ... able to hold on and he's missing nails ... he could have fallen and got run over.''
"It's a miracle. There's no other way to put this."
Another coincidence: Slater got food poisoning on Friday and left work early. He said if that hadn't happened, he wouldn't have been working Sunday.
Slater would like to keep Q199 and will slowly introduce him to his other cats. He hopes all will get along.
Engineer Will Munsey said the cat and Slater have restored his faith in humanity.
"I want to thank a stupid little cat and a big-hearted, young conductor for reminding me that little things can be pretty damned beautiful,'' Munsey wrote on Facebook.
— With files from CHED Radio