Sometimes it takes a whole island to save a trapped cat.
When a kitten somehow scampered into the cistern below a Key West guesthouse after 2 p.m. Tuesday, the humans around her launched into rescue mode.
They cut a hole in the kitchen floor with no luck.
Then they used a jackhammer to chip away at the foundation of the house at 625 South St. in order to make a kitten-sized exit.
They also called the Fire Department, which responded to the dispatcher's radio call of "Kitten trapped in cistern."
A police officer stopped by to offer help. At one point a fire engine was parked outside the Ocean Breeze Inn.
"The cat was young and scared," said Key West Fire Marshal Danny Blanco. "We just stopped by to see if we could help. We never saw the cat; we just heard it."
This Old Town property's cistern, one of those old underground tanks that collect rainwater, was practically sealed in by the foundation.
"There was no opening, no way for people to come in," said city and police spokeswoman Alyson Crean, who also responded to check out the scene.
"The problem was it was a feral kitten, not a pet," said Crean.
"Usually I'd crawl under the house and try to get it," said Jared Daeffler, animal control officer for the Florida Keys Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. "We could not find a point of entry."
Management knew the kitten belonged to a feral litter that made a corner of the inn's wooden deck into a home, but they took action as if it were their own pet.
But in the end, the orange and white tabby kitten had to pitch in, too.
Rescuers spent more than an hour on the scene, which at one point included a fire engine and a police cruiser, before finally laying a long 2-by-4 wooden board into the cistern as a makeshift escape route.
Daeffler had some wet cat food in his truck they used as bait.
Once the emergency vehicles and officials left the scene and commotion had turned to quiet, the young feline walked the plank to freedom. Daeffler wrapped the shivering, crying kitten inside his uniform jacket to warm her up.
She was taken to All Animal Clinic and treated for dehydration before landing at the shelter on College Road.
"She still won't stop meowing," said Daeffler on Wednesday. "She has pneumonia."
The kitten's constant meow worked like a distress signal, helping rescuers figure out where she was inside the pitch-black cistern that Daeffler called "the dungeon."
Inn workers threw about 15 glow sticks into the man-made opening in the cistern.
"The glow sticks were cool; I have to remember that," said Daeffler.
A guesthouse employee named the cat Trouble once she was safe and sound. But the SPCA's workers came up with a name that reflects endurance -- Phelps, after the Olympic champion swimmer Michael Phelps.
The SPCA will care for Phelps and eventually put her up for adoption.
Daeffler said he would follow up on the feral feline family by trying to capture them and take them into the shelter, too.
For now, only Phelps knows how she got into that cistern.
"We don't know how it got under the house," said Blanco. "The home was using the cistern as part of the foundation."
Tuesday's kitten rescue is just one example of the response Key West emergency officials give when called. Even for a tiny feral cat.
"Anytime," said Crean. "When people need help, they roll."