By JOY BROWN
“Piper” is the fitting name given to a cat that spent a cold three days refusing to leave a drainage pipe near Donnell Middle School.
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 pipe to try to free the cat.
But Piper was reluctant to come out.
Berger said some of the more unusual rescue suggestions made to his office included using a vacuum, a Roto-Rooter, firecrackers, and dangling catnip on the end of a stick.
What eventually did the trick was time, patience, food, and cajoling.
Treats like tuna and sardines were left near the pipe’s entrance. Water was sucked out of the hole, and Berger’s assistant, Joella Hamlin, positioned a piece of cardboard over water that remained so Piper wouldn’t get wet feet.
A cellphone with a meowing app was used, as was the old standby, “Here, kitty kitty!”
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 (from melting snow), and he was soaked,” Berger said.
Shortly after his capture, Piper’s body temperature measured 95 degrees. About 102 is normal for a cat, Calland said.
On Friday afternoon, the orange tiger stripe, which 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 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.
“He’s a special cat, no question,” Calland said.
Judging by his bony frame and injuries, the cat has been outside and on his own “for a while,” the vet determined. Piper has bloody scratches under his chin, which indicate he’s had skirmishes with cats or other animals. He also has a fractured back leg and some lumps around his jawline.
“He’s led a rough life. He’s well-traveled,” Calland said. “He doesn’t have much muscle mass and there’s evidence of old injuries. But he’s a happy cat, despite all his issues.”
Blood work and X-rays are in order.
Berger said $200 was anonymously donated for Piper’s immediate needs.
If no one comes forward to claim Piper as theirs, Berger said numerous people, “too many to count,” have expressed interest in adopting him.
Berger said those who were particularly helpful in freeing the cat were Findlay City Schools stadium maintenance worker Kyle Ford, schools maintenance supervisor Dennis Doolittle, school district operations director Dennis McPheron, Donnell Principal Don Williams, Superintendent Dean Wittwer, and Assistant Superintendent Craig Kupferberg.
Someone created a Twitter account called @StuckFindlayCat and was pretending to be the cat on Friday. By late Friday, @StuckFindlayCat had 123 followers.
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