Molly is the resident mouser at Myers of Keswick, a popular delicatessen catering to a specialized clientele with clotted cream, Scotch eggs and other British food products not available in American stores.
The effort was renewed early Wednesday when workers heard the cat meowing again after several days of silence that had given rise to fears she had died. "That was a motivator to try again," said Mike Pastore, field director of Animal Care & Control of New York City, a private agency that handles animal rescues on a city contract.
Pastore led the rescue team trying to locate the pussycat with a tiny video camera attached to a plumber's snake. But the sound of the drill may have spooked Molly to retreat further into the maze under the front wall of the 19th-century brick building.
Pastore said Molly, being a curious sort, apparently slipped into a narrow space between two buildings and fell or crawled through a hole into the space inside the cellar wall.
The police and fire departments also have been on the scene but as of Wednesday were leaving the job to Pastore.
"This is the most difficult case of this kind I've ever been on," said Pastore, whose agency receives an average of 120 stray or surrendered dogs and cats per day for temporary care and adoption.
Others pitched in to help. Neighbors left cans of cat food on the steps, and Renato Migliorini, proprietor of Piccolo Angolo, an Italian restaurant at Hudson Street, delivered a whole fresh fish called a branzino.
"I hope it will come out because I love cats and dogs," Migliorini said.
The day's search efforts ended by 9 p.m., when rescuers laid out a trap for Molly.
The fact that the building is landmarked by the city makes breaking into the walls a more delicate proposition, Pastore said. He said Molly may be blocked from reaching food left for her and it was unclear whether she has access to water dripping from a drain. "We are concerned about dehydration," he said.
Normally Molly sleeps in a basket inside the store, said Peter Myers, who opened the store 20 years ago. Myers said he periodically pays a $300 fine for the health violation, "but if I didn't have the cat I would be paying a $300 fine for having mice in the store. I saw a mouse running across the kitchen floor this morning."
A few neighbors watched the activity but were outnumbered by the television crews and other news media on the scene.
At midday, three observers from the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission showed up to make sure no serious structural damage occurs. The four-story building, dating from the mid-19th century, is in one of New York's historic districts.
By KAREN MATTHEWS