06/21/2013 03:02 EDT | Updated 08/21/2013 05:12 EDT

Momo the cat and owner safe after watery escape from truck in Alberta flood

DE WINTON, Alta. - Bathtime doubled as training for an eight-month-old cat whose swimming prowess was put to the test this week during a dramatic escape from a truck sinking in Alberta floodwaters.

Momo the cat and her owner Kevan Yeats have been in the spotlight since they were photographed Thursday by The Canadian Press swimming to safety as Yeats's pickup truck was swept downstream in High River, Alta., after the Highwood River overflowed its banks.

The images captured international attention and the pair was even deemed "a symbol of hope" amid the flood devastation by the British newspaper The Times.

Yeats's mother said her son was caught off guard when the truck suddenly went underwater.

The windows wouldn't open, trapping him and his pet inside, and the windshield began to crack, said Lori Yeats, who lives in De Winton, Alta., a hamlet just south of Calgary.

"He couldn't get out, so he had to smash out the back window with his elbow, and of course the cat was trying to beat him out," she said.

Momo's plunge into the muddy flow moments later was to be expected, she said, noting the indoor cat has a longtime fascination with water.

"She will crawl in the tub with (Kevan) or crawl in the shower with him, so that was probably a good thing that she's been around water a little bit," she said.

There was no doubt her son would jump in after his beloved pet, she said.

"Kevan and that cat are tight. In fact, I was giving him heck for going back and rescuing his cat, he says 'Mom, it's like my baby, you know, I couldn't live with myself if something happened,'" she said.

Experts say most cats are capable swimmers, though the average feline will do almost anything to avoid getting wet.

In spending so much time in and around the tub, however, it appears Momo — who is believed to be part Maine Coon — may have developed a distinctive swimming style.

Lori Yeats said her son noticed his cat was "using her tail like an alligator does" during their watery escape.

"Their tail kind of wiggles back and forth when they're swimming and they use it as a rudder, and she was using her tail like that when he was swimming behind her. He said he couldn't keep up with her, she was doing so well swimming in the water," she said.

Both her son and "grandkitty" are safe and sound after their ordeal, though they were shaken Thursday night, she said.

"(Kevan) is doing OK. He was a little emotional yesterday, I think, when it finally hit," she said.

"When he was getting out of that truck, he lost everything. He lost his cell, he lost his wallet, his work keys — that was a work truck — he's got nothing," she said.

"I had to actually take him in to Wal-Mart in bare feet last night to get him shoes and underwear and socks so that he would have something to wear," she added.

By Friday morning, things were mostly back to normal for Kevan, who insisted on going to his job as a jack-of-all-trades and working late to make up for his absence the previous day, his mother said.

Yet word of the pair's adventure continued to spread on social media, with many expressing concern for the cat's wellbeing.

"Is anyone else dying to know if Momo the cat is ok?" one tweet read.

"Alberta flooding - And all I can think of is poor kitty!" read another.

Without a phone or other means of communication, Kevan Yeats has remained largely unaware of his newfound fame, his mother said.

Momo, too, is staying humble, Lori Yeats said.

"She's just running around being herself today. You know, it took her a few hours yesterday, she was pretty scared and stressed and out of her home situation because she's an indoor cat. ... But she's making herself quite at home now."

--by Paola Loriggio in Toronto