by Matthew J.X. Malady
Just a few days after we turned our calendars from 2012 to 2013, NBC Bay Area posted a story on its website under the bizarre headline “Fat Cat Rescue Highlights Cathood Obesity.”
The cat referred to in that headline, Midnight, weighed 14.4 pounds at the time of its rescue. The corresponding article noted that the portly pet’s “‘ample hips’ needed massaging and squeezing before she could be freed” from the space between fence posts.
Remarkably, as the year progressed things got even more ridiculous with respect to cats being trapped in stupid places. And just in case some of you may have missed one or two of this year’s wackiest stuck-cat news stories, it’s probably a good idea to squeeze in a wrap-up before 2014 is upon us and cats start getting stuck in ridiculous things from the future, like 3D printers and shoes that enable humans to fly.
Let’s begin with the classic of the genre: Trees!
Cats love getting stuck in trees. They just do. If you don’t believe me, then you’ve clearly never run the Google Image search “cats stuck in trees.” Also, you’ve never talked to Piney, the Bakersfield, Calif., cat that was stuck in a tree for 13 days during October. (According to news reports, “the cat was chased up a tree by a stray dog.”) For further confirmation, you can hit up this little orange dude who got stuck eight stories above the ground in a Hackensack, N.J., tree around the same time.
And there are hundreds more where those came from. So just trust me when I say that 2013, like every year before it, and every year to come, was marked by lots of cats getting stuck in trees. But, really, trees are pretty boring when it comes to cats getting stuck. What made 2013 such a noteworthy year for cats getting stuck in crazy predicaments was the impressive range of ridiculous places cats were finding themselves trapped this year.
Cats that decided to go outside ran into some especially hairy situations in 2013. This is not to suggest that cats that stayed inside were less likely to become stuck in ridiculous places — we’ll get there, don’t worry — but it really is the case that if you are a cat that hopes not to get stuck in or on something, going outside is probably not the best idea.
This is doubly the case if it’s winter and the place where you are going outside is named South Dakota. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb here and say that it’s no fun being a cat in South Dakota. Just ask the cat that froze to a damn pond this past February in the town of Yankton.
According to a report in the Yankton Press & Dakotan, the individual undertaking the rescue in this instance “had to chisel the cat’s tail out of the ice.” After helping bring the animal to safety, the town’s deputy fire chief noted, “She had been there long enough that there was an indentation in the ice where she had been sitting.”
A few months later, in April, a cat in Indiana climbed atop a freeway sign, sat on a light, and couldn’t get down for two days.
After rescuing the cat near Elkhart, Ind., someone decided to name him “Freeway.” Then, according to local reports, lots of people in and around Elkhart flooded the area humane society with calls about adopting Freeway.
I’m not certain what happened next, but if I had to guess I’d probably say that Freeway arrived at a loving home, looked around, and promptly went about the process of getting stuck in a basement wall.
Did I mention cats love getting trapped in walls? Well, they do! In April, near Miami, a kitten got stuck in a wall of a family home for several days. And since the kitten was also, you know, a cat, getting it unstuck was a complete pain in the ass. “It took two agencies and approximately 10 firefighters to get this kitten from a wall,” a local fireman told NBC Miami, “it was pretty well hidden.” Not to be outdone, a Michigan kitten found itself stuck in the wall of a Detroit gas station for three days in November. Cats really need to watch out for walls.
And while we’re at it, seriously you cats: Enough with the whole getting stuck in car engines thing! It’s super dangerous. Also, when the cars you’ve gotten stuck in go places that you don’t like, there’s really not much you can do about it.
Just ask this grumpy cat…
Drains would appear to be a big problem, too. In October, firefighters in South Los Angeles used a hamburger to convince a kitten trapped in storm drain for two days that it really needed to come out and no longer be stuck. Meanwhile, this summer, in York, Pa., a cat got stuck in a sewer drain leading to a most unexpected and unfortunate chain of events. It’s unclear what happened to the cat, but when no one responded with help after three 911 calls, the animals’s owner decided that this show of municipal negligence was the last straw for her in that southern Pennsylvania town. “Just another reason I am selling my home in York,” she wrote in an angry letter to the local paper.
And lest you should think it’s only American cats that act all bonkers and get caught in tight places or stuck high in the air, other countries appear to have at least as many zany 2013 stuck-cat stories as we do.
In January, for instance, a cat in the UK named Polly got trapped on a train and traveled nearly 1,700 miles before she was rescued.
According to a write-up on SWNS.com, the trouble began when the cat “climbed inside the ‘raft’ below the carriage which houses the air conditioning and batteries and which is only accessible when maintenance panels are opened.” Fortunately for Polly, she had been microchipped. So after being rescued, and operated on for a broken leg, she was returned to her owners in Plymouth, not far from the southwestern tip of England. Thereafter, Polly went home and promptly got stuck in a wall. (Kidding! I kid.)
A few months later, a cat named Nigel found itself stuck between the floor and ceiling of a Toronto apartment for 11 days. According to a piece in the Toronto Star, the cat became trapped while its owners were out of town and their bathroom was being renovated. Once it was determined that the cat was stuck in the ceiling, its owners had several large holes cut and tried coaxing it out by reading aloud to the animal.
Ultimately one of the cat’s owners had to pull Nigel out by his tail. “That’s when he started fighting… it was chaos,” the man told The Star, noting that he got all scratched up.
Then there’s the story of the cat that decided to get itself trapped in a Newcastle, South Africa chimney this past September. Here again, these cats don’t make saving them easy. “When we went out there, we discovered that the fireplace had been boarded up,” an SPCA inspector told the local newspaper, “and the only way to get the cat, which was stuck at the bottom, would be from the chimney entrance on the roof of the house.” So some kind soul named Sphelele Manyathi had to go down that chimney — which, according to reports, possessed a “horrific” smell and was “overgrown with grass and plants and dirt.” After saving the cat, Manyathi noted that it kept attempting to scratch him throughout the rescue process.
One month later, in October, a Scottish cat named Coco caused a power outage in the town of St. Cyrus when it got stuck at the top of a utility pole.
After a harrowing rescue, the viaduct cat was given the name “Lucky” and an RSPCA representative told the Daily Mail, “It was a very precarious position the cat managed to get itself into.”
A better quote would have been something like: “This is what cats do, people! They get stuck in ridiculous places. Sometimes they’re really high up places like this one. Other times it’s in a wall, or under a bookshelf, or upside down behind the dryer, or whatever. So, really, this is nothing out of the ordinary. It’s just a cat getting stuck somewhere crazy.”
In lieu of going on forever, I’ll just note that this year also featured cats getting stuck behind water heaters, in sofas, in toilets, in vending machines, in pipes, in dog doors, at the bottom of really deep holes in the ground, and in pretty much any household items they could fit some part of their bodies into. But perhaps the oddest stuck-cat story of 2013 happened in Queens, N.Y., this past spring.
In mid-March, as reported by The New York Post, NYPD officer Dane Natto responded to a 911 call about a cat stuck in a tree near PS 213 in Oakland Gardens. Natto climbed the tree in an effort to grab the cat, but after a while he realized that he was stuck and could not get down.
“We looked out the window, and we saw the cop inside the tree — sitting,” Luna Giuong told the Post. “[His] partner was laughing at him.”
Calls then went out to the NYFD for a double rescue, and when firefighters arrived on the scene they proceeded to assist the cat before turning their attention to Natto. “They all gathered around and laughed at him,” Giuong added.
But the laughing stops now. You see, this thing in Queens was just a trial run for the cats. A more finely tuned, synchronized version of this “cat pretends to be stuck somewhere ridiculous and then gets humans stuck instead” thing is how we all will die. One day all the cats on the planet will simultaneously become stuck in dangerous, stupid places — slippery rooftops, edges of rocky cliffs, New Jersey — and we will all attempt to help them. Then we will get stuck and eventually perish while all the cats in the world lick their paws in quiet contemplation and zoom across rooms without realizing that they can’t stop very well on hardwood floors and leap high into the air at odd times for no apparent reason at all.
Matthew J.X. Malady is a writer and editor in New York.