Like a surgeon delivering a baby, the auto mechanic donned gloves and carefully began delivering a cat from the belly of an engine block. In just a few moments, a full-grown orange tabby emerged from the tire well, apparently unhurt, though clearly unhappy about the ordeal.

A video of the operation went viral on Facebook with more than 2.5 million views. The cat, which belonged to a resident who lived next to the garage, had decided to get snuggly in the engine compartment for warmth.

Related: How to Keep an Outdoor Cat Safe

How often does this happen?

National statistics on cats trapped in cars are as hard to come by as cats who enjoys baths, but it’s clear the scenario is relatively common, particularly when it’s cold outside. Snopes.com, a website dedicated to debunking Internet rumors, cited a Palo Alto, California, animal services manager who reports about 20 rescues a year in that city.

Several recent incidents made headlines. One motorist said a two-month-old kitten got wedged into the exhaust system after it climbed into the engine compartment, TheNest.com reported. In another incident, according to the same report, a driver in New York saw a kitten emerge from the turn signal housing of his Mercedes Benz.

European felines are doing it too. One British newspaper reported a cat there survived a 150-mile journey riding in a car engine compartment it had crawled into to avoid a rainstorm.

Related: 13 Health Symptoms Cat Owners Should Never Ignore

What’s the attraction?

Cats, especially small kittens, who have less body fat, are drawn to warm automobile engine areas because they’re generally cozy, warm, dry and safe from predators. Cats especially like cars that have recently been driven, which are extra warm, according to the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals.

The danger comes when unsuspecting drivers are unaware a stowaway has come aboard. Deaths and injuries can occur when the vehicle is started or driven.


How to keep your car cat free

Whether you believe cats have nine lives or not, keeping felines from pussyfooting around your car’s engine can help prevent an unfortunate incident.

The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) says to keep cats indoors, especially during the cold season and in bad weather. If possible, keep your car in the garage with the door closed so cats and other critters won’t make themselves at home.

Before you get in your car and drive, look around the car for any obvious signs of a cat hiding in front tire wells, which offer easy access. Try banging on the hood and stomping the floor a couple of times to scare any stowaways away. But be aware, in some cases, animals have been known to crawl further into the compartment to hide.

When in doubt, open your hood. Check around the fan area and engine compartment for furry friends who should be inside a warm house instead.

Related: 8 Common Cat-Feeding Mistakes to Avoid


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Ronald Agrella is a freelance writer and former editor of The Boston Globe’s Boston.com.