A Manhattan cat had a wild subway adventure during the Wednesday afternoon rush hour and delayed more than 80 trains when he escaped from his owner onto the tracks and narrowly avoided the third rail, authorities said.
George, an adorable black cat from Washington Heights, got spooked by the noise of the trains and broke free from his leash at the Canal Street station while heading home from the vet with owner Mila Rusafova, 23, and her other pet Zoe about 5:20 p.m.
Frightened, he hid in a niche near the tracks, inches from the third rail.
"He was panting, he was petrified," Officer Brian Kenny, a 22-year NYPD veteran who rescued him, told amNewYork. "He didn't move a muscle. The third rail was within four inches of his tail."
Rusafova and other riders on the platform flagged down an uptown E motorman as the train pulled into the station. The train operator wanted to help Rusafova but was having communication problems, she said.
"Unfortunately, the radio wasn't working and the driver started insisting that he has to go," Rusafova said. "I frantically begged him not to. Meanwhile, my brother went to look for help."
The MTA soon shut off the power to the tracks, and suspended service on the E train.
"Time was a blur," Rusafova said. "That whole time George never moved. He was frozen to the spot. I was always scared that he would run."
Her brother returned with several transit cops. Two climbed onto the front of the E train at the station, then went down onto the tracks. Officer Gus Vargas went first to make sure George wouldn't run further down the tracks, while Kenny decided to pick him up since he is an avid cat lover.
"I gave him a little scratch on the head," he said. "He looked at us. I picked him up, he reached for both of my shoulders like a baby. He almost hugged me."
Kenny then handed the cat to Rusafova as riders applauded on the platform, about 5:50 p.m.
"It was one of my worst nightmares come true," she said. "I always imagine falling or dropping something on the tracks, but you never really think it. I'm very grateful with the NYPD and the MTA's patience."
Kenny, who has two cats at home, said he often rescues animals from the tracks. He once adopted a cat who a rider had cruelly dumped in a carrier onto the tracks at the Chambers Street station -- and took care of her for the rest of her life.
"He used up a bunch of his lives," he quipped about the rescue. "I love animals. Nothing would have happened to George. We were going to make sure of it."
A transit source said the incident was unusual because it affected an important switch for both express and local trains, and is a critical juncture for three lines. "This was an unusual incident where an animal caused major delays," the source said.
A total of 83 trains on the A, B, C, D, E, and F lines were either rerouted or delayed, the MTA said. The C and E were most impacted.
Subway rider Mayer Fertig, 45, of Teaneck, New Jersey said he was heading to a rally on Iran in Times Square and was stuck on the E train for 35 minutes following Chambers Street.
He said a conductor made announcements that the MTA was hunting for animals on the track.
"We didn't know what type," he said. "It could have been a cat or a rhinoceros."
(Video by Deirdre Hamill / Questimagery.com)