I’ve never been fully aware of the many strange places that animals may find themselves trapped in. This past week has been a very good reminder to always check every crack, crevice, and pipe that may be exposed around your home.
On June 17, we received a call from a very worried older gentleman. He explained that there was a 4- to 5-week-old kitten stuck in a pipe with a waterline. He said that he had no idea how to get it out and that it had been there for two days.
At this point I, along with my coworker, Lorena, knew we had to act fast.
We had no idea what we were walking into and started grabbing items that may become useful in this situation: leashes, a couple random poles, a catchpole, wire hangers, the list goes on. We came up with a game plan and started the 45-minute drive; lots of nerves were going around.
When we got to the home, we were expecting the waterline to be outside. It was underneath the house in the crawlspace, which made this task so much harder than we were expecting. Once in the crawlspace, it was a maze of piping, debris and very little wiggle room. Luckily, the pipe was near the entrance of the crawlspace, and we did not have to venture too far.
Looking down in the pipe, neither of us knew what to expect. We could hear the kitten meowing, but could not tell how far away it was from the exit of the pipe. It sounded within inches, but when you looked into the pipe you could not see the kitten at all. We were very fortunate that the homeowner had bought a camera that we could drop down into the hole. Even at it’s very longest, we still could not see the kitten.
At this point, we were becoming more aware of the serious situation we were in. Both fire department and law enforcement were not available due to a serious house fire. We did not know how much time we had left with the kitten since it had not drank or had a solid meal in two days. The meowing coming from the kitten was very reassuring; it gave us hope when it seemed there was none.
After being underneath the home, I went to update the owner that we were not having any luck about seeing the kitten. We had tried the wire hangers, but were very worried that we may be pushing the kitten down further. We had one last idea that we could try, and if it didn’t work, we would need to call a well company to dig to the pipe and cut it open.
While I was speaking to the owner, Lorena had called for me and said that she saw the kitten’s face. This meant that the kitten had fallen down backwards, which was the saving grace of this rescue mission. I had grabbed the two thin leashes that we brought and hooked them together. They were just long enough to reach where the kitten was, which happened to be 7 to 8 feet down.
The kitten had hooked a nail on the leash, and we gently started to pull her up. Unfortunately, the kitten was just too weak to hold on and let go. From where we were sitting, we could see that the kitten did not have enough room because of the water pipe.
The homeowner and I soaked a scrap piece of cloth in wet cat food, and we tied this to the end of the leashes in hopes the kitten would be hungry enough to bite on it.
Lorena and I crawled back into the crawlspace and put our theory to the test. We could tell that the kitten was getting weaker by the minute – the meows became more spaced out and less effort was being put into them. We lowered the leashes into the pipe, and jiggled it in hopes the kitten would become interested in it. Minutes had passed...10, 20, and we were not having any luck.
Finally, Lorena felt the kitten had grabbed onto the leash. I pulled the water pipe out of the way to give the kitten more clearance. These few moments were very tense; the feeling of victory was quickly spreading as the kitten got closer and closer to the opening. Then, there she was, a beautiful medium-haired brown tabby. She was soaked from head to tail, shivering, and had a very pungent smell to her that neither of us will forget.
We rushed the kitten back to the shelter here in Park Rapids. She was very weak and needed lots of TLC in order to make it. Despite all of the speed bumps that Piper has been through, she is one of the most resilient animals that we have come into contact with. She still has a long road of recovery, and we are all hoping that she makes it.
Piper is not the first animal to find himself or herself trapped in a man-made crevice. We are right in the middle of kitten season, and now would be the best time to find these cracks and crevices to make sure you are not in the same situation. Instead of waiting for this to happen to you, consider covering any hole an animal can fall or get stuck in.
P.S. At the Headwaters Animal Shelter, we normally do not pick up any animals.
Holly Packman is the cat manager for the Headwaters Animal Shelter.