updated 11/16/2011 AT 3:55 PM ET
•originally published 11/17/2011 AT 9:00 AM ET
It turns out Scampi the cat, like the shellfish he’s named after, can actually swim.
Well, in an emergency.
Scampi’s owner, Frances Leate of Colchester, England, accidentally trapped the feline in her washing machine recently when she tossed in a load of laundry.
Leate realized the 8-week old kitten was missing as she was sending a text message, according to the U.K.’s Telegraph. She immediately rushed to the machine and saw her little friend flailing as the washer filled with water – but when she turned it off, it took time for the water to drain. Poor Scampi paddled furiously to keep his furry head above the soapy water, which was set at 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
“He was looking out at me and it was just awful – I could see that he was drowning and I was desperately trying to get the door open,” she said. “I completely and utterly panicked and was thinking whether to phone the police or the fire brigade but rushed out of my flat to get help.”
When she was finally able to get him out, the cat was lifeless and Leate initially thought he was dead. But she soon realized he was still breathing and rushed to the vet, who pronounced him lucky to be alive.
“The vets were amazed,” she said. “He is just so lucky because his little body was filled with water.”
Leate is convinced Scampi was saved in the knick of time, “I think just a minute longer and that would have been it.”
[RELATED_TEXT “Can’t get enough pet news? See more on PEOPLE Pets