TAMPA - It took more than five hours to rescue two kittens from a sewer pipe, but in the end, the Fontaine family saved the day.
For Michael Fontaine, 13, the effort was worth it.
'How would you feel if you were down in a sewage drain, trapped and starving?' asked Michael, who will be a seventh-grader at Memorial Middle School next year.
He and his mother were outside chatting with neighbors near Lowry Park Zoo about 8 p.m. Sunday when he heard a kitten crying.
Michael feared the kitten was injured and told his mother they had to track the noise and find its source. When they walked half a block closer to the sound, Cynthia Fontaine realized there was trouble.
'This kitten was very much in distress,' she said. 'Something was wrong. But we didn't know if it was hurt. It could have been up in a tree or something.'
They soon realized that not one but two kittens were stuck in a sewer pipe at the intersection of Sligh and Orleans avenues.
Soon after realizing the kittens were underground, Michael and his mother tried to rescue them but couldn't. She called 911, which referred her to Hillsborough County Animal Services.
Fontaine said an animal services employee came out to help but wasn't able to rescue the kittens.
A city water department staff member came out as well but wasn't able to rescue the kittens either, she said.
Eventually her other son, Christopher, 17, went down a manhole to rescue the kittens, working with Michael to get them to safety.
Christopher, who has arachnophobia, said he was about 5 feet underground and surrounded by large spiders.
'I risked my life - kind of,' he said. 'I was scared I was going to get stuck.'
By 1:30 a.m., they finally were able to rescue the kittens and bring them to their house.
The kittens weren't injured but were malnourished. One is black; the other is peach with a black tail and black ears.
When the family showed off the kittens Monday night, the tiny felines were curled into balls, finding comfort in their new owners' arms.
The family has been too concerned with the kittens' health to come up with names for them, Fontaine said.
She originally suggested to her children that they put the kittens up for adoption. Her children hated that idea.
'They both got very upset,' she said. 'They went through all that - rescued them and saved them. They're bonding with them already.'