Cat picks school bus to deliver kittens

Justin Head

Thursday morning started no different that any other day for Canisteo-Greenwood bus driver Karl Crittenden.

It got a lot more interesting after he made his morning run.

Crittenden may just be the first school bus driver to complete trips to four different territories with a cat that had just given birth to kittens on a bus — and not even know about it.

“I didn’t have a clue they were there. Of course, with my hearing that is not surprising,” said Crittenden, a driver for the past 25 years.

He was shocked when he went to throw away a winter hat on the floor behind a trash can and touched something soft and fury.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes. I noticed this tiger-looking thing and there she was with all them kittens,” he said.

The cat was familiar to Crittenden, who with others had been helping to take care of her at the Greenwood bus garage since last November.

“She started hanging around the Dumpster, looking for food and stuff,” Crittenden said. As the weather grew colder they started allowing the cat to come into the bus garage because they felt bad for her.

Little is known about the healthy-looking gray-and-black tiger cat with hints of orange. She showed up at the bus garage in the fall of last year and is believed to be a stray. She has never been given a name.

“Maybe we’ll call her Nine, that’s the bus she was on, or Ninea,” said Crittenden.

The cat was given a litter box under a desk in the bus garage and slept on an upholstered chair near the desk. Crittenden wouldn’t deny that the cat is used to warm milk and special treatment. She started sleeping in the garage and it became her home.

“She got so she knew my car and she’d be waiting for me when I showed up in the morning,” Crittenden said.

What’s unexplainable is how she got into the bus and why she chose Crittenden’s bus to give birth. He said no windows were open when he left the night before, and the cat usually ran from the sound of the buses. 

When the kittens were discovered, he tried to move them into a box, but the mother kept picking them up with her teeth and bringing them back to behind the trash can. So, nestled in a hooded sweatshirt in a compartment behind a garbage can between the fire wall of the bus and the engine, the mother and her newborns stayed for the remainder of the day.

For eight or nine hours the cats rode the bus as Crittenden traveled to the North Hornell School, Hornell Intermediate and high school, Canisteo-Greenwood elementary and high school and back to the Greenwood bus garage. Students held the mother so she would not leap from the bus during stops.

“They’re so cute,” said Liz Clugston, 15, of Canisteo, about the kittens.

Crittenden said he contacted the Hornell Humane Society about caring for the cats, but was told they did not have any room for them. He said a Greenwood bus driver agreed to take in the mother if she gets spayed.

“Finding a home for the kittens shouldn’t be a problem,” Crittenden said.

The Evening Tribune