It's well-known that cats are believed to have nine lives, since they manage to survive all manner of predicaments that would otherwise doom other creatures. But on New Year's Eve, a cat in Belfast not only proved that theory yet again, it managed to warm the hearts of the many people who worked hard to save its life.
Glenn Montgomery and his wife, Cary, were home in Belfast Dec. 31, preparing for 10 dinner guests when they got a call from a "frantic" friend on Pine Street.
The friend, Sara Holmes, told Cary that a "cat was stuck in a stormwater grate, with only its head protruding aboveground and its body dangling below."
The couple dropped everything and headed seven blocks to the scene, and found Holmes kneeling on the ground, with her hands thrust through openings in the heavy-duty grate, cradling the cat's body as best she could, according to Glenn.
"I did the same, trying to take the pressure off the cat's head to keep it from strangling," said Glenn. "I noticed some blood on my hands from the cat's rear paws, apparently as he had fought to find some kind of grip on the walls of the hole below the grate."
While holding the cat, which stared up with big eyes and let out a "pitiful 'please help me,'" yowl, Cary drove to the Belfast Police Department and explained the dilemma.
"Here we are, on the cusp of New Year's Eve, potentially one of the busiest nights of the year for the Belfast Police Department, but responding to the call were Chief Mike McFadden and officer Mike Rolerson," said Glenn. "Also responding to the call was the head of Belfast Public Works, Bob Richards."
For a solid hour, McFadden, Rolerson and Richards tried everything to free the frozen grate from the ground, while the others used olive oil as a lubricant to dislodge the male, longhair cat, to no avail.
In addition to not being able to free the frightened cat without doing more harm, Glenn said, "The other problem was that the 2-1/2-foot-square grate was frozen solid into the ground and no amount of sledge-hammering and pry-barring was able to totally free it. Finally, a big pot of steaming water was used to soften the adjacent ground and the grate was lifted out, carefully, with the cat's head still lodged in it."
Still unable to free the cat, Glenn's wife again jumped in her car and drove the home of Belfast veterinarian Mike Shershow. Luckily, said Glenn, Shershow was home and he too dropped everything to come and help free the cat.
"He came with Cary back to Pine Street, where he used some kind of veterinary magic to free the cat from its imprisonment," said Glenn. "We wrapped the kitty in a towel and Mike took it to his clinic for treatment." The cat is now at Belfast Veterinary Clinic.
When the cat was finally freed, he was nearly comatose; his body temperature was 92 degrees, about 10 degrees where it should have been. “That was our biggest issue at first,” Dr. Sarah Caputo said. “When we got him warmed up and administered some anti-inflammatories to get the swelling down, he started perking up.” Caputo estimated that he’s about 3-4 years old. The last issue that is still resolving is the severely frostbitten ear, but, otherwise, he is coming back to health.
“He’s fortunately doing much better. He has been eating well and in the last few days with medications and rest, the swelling [around his head and neck] has gone down,” said Caputo.
In a letter to the PenBayPilot, Glenn wrote, "I feel I am incredibly fortunate to live in a town where the chief of police, one of his officers and the head of Public Works all will work so hard, with so much patience, on a cold New Year's Eve, to free a cat in distress. My thanks goes out to them, as it does to veterinarian Shershow, who without hesitation dropped what he was doing to come to the rescue. Blessings to them all."
“He’s quite sweet really, and very mellow,” said Caputo. “He’s quite happy to be here and really likes belly rubs.”
This little guy’s luck just keeps getting better. PenBayPilot has learned that someone familiar with the rescue team has already committed to adopting the little guy and will be picking him up today.