When he was finally lured out Friday morning, he was hypothermic, emaciated and covered in mud.
“If they truly have nine lives, he probably has three left,” said Findlay Animal Hospital veterinarian Dr. David Calland, who is assessing the cat’s health.
Piper’s story, which attracted statewide attention, began Wednesday when a nearby resident heard him crying.
“It’s unusual for tame cats like him to go into drains like that. We get others in storm drains, but usually not that far up. In this case, something must have spooked him down there,” said Dana Berger, Hancock County Humane Society dog warden and humane officer.
On Friday, TV news crews, school officials and humane society workers amassed at the scene as school groundskeepers cut through the drainage pipe to try to free the cat.
Treats like tuna and sardines were left near the pipe’s entrance. Water was sucked out of the hole, and Berger’s assistant, Joella Hamoin, positioned a piece of cardboard over water that remained so that Piper wouldn’t get wet feet.
A cellphone with a meowing app was used, as was the old “here kitty kitty” standby.
When Piper finally decided to come out, Berger was at the ready with a net to pull him up.
“He was cold and lethargic. A lot of water is starting to run off, and he was soaked,” said Berger.
On Friday afternoon, the orange tiger stripe, whom Calland estimates is at least 12 years old, seemed to have put the ordeal behind him. A friendly, tame feline, he enjoys petting and attention.
Calland said that Piper was cared for at some point in his life, as evidenced by his demeanor, and by the fact that he’s neutered and declawed.
Judging by his bony frame and injuries, has obviously been outside on his own “for a while,” the vet determined. He has bloody scratches under his chin, which indicate he’s had skirmishes with other cats or animals. He also has a fractured back leg and some lumps around his jaw line.
“He’s led a rough life. He’s well-traveled,” said Calland. “He doesn’t have much muscle mass and there’s evidence of old injuries. But he’s a happy cat, despite all his issues.”
If no one comes forward to claim Piper as theirs, Berger said several people, “too many to count,” have expressed interest in adopting him.
Courier reporter Joy Brown will have more on Saturday.