We had all heard about the fire before any calls concerning animals started coming in. When the overnight ICU technician arrived shortly before midnight, he relayed what he had seen on the news and everyone began searching for the story on the Internet.
Apparently a local apartment complex had caught fire and at least one building was actively burning. Later, in the early morning hours of the following day, our ER service received a call that a firefighter was bringing in a cat found in one of the apartments. The cat did not seem to be burned, but was non-responsive and soaked from the water used to extinguish the blaze.
She was a small tortoise shell-colored cat. She was very cold on arrival and we immediately began warming her up by drying her fur and using warming blankets. She was given warm intravenous fluids as well and placed in our oxygen cage, as we were certain that she had suffered an unknown amount of smoke inhalation.
It was touch and go for some time, but after several hours she began moving and seemed to be examining her surroundings as if in wonderment of how she arrived there. She even started meowing. It wasn’t until this point that someone thought to check for the presence of a microchip, which could potentially identify her family. Frequently when we have animals brought in by firemen, the police or animal control officers, there is usually not a microchip to help us reunite the lost pet with its owners. This time we were all pleasantly surprised to find that our new little feline friend did indeed have one.
Her owners were reached by cell phone and were overjoyed to know she was safe. They had lost everything in the fire and only made it out with a few small things. In addition to having lost their home, their other cat was also missing. The family came to see their rescued kitty soon after and the small girl whom she belonged to was thrilled to be able to pet her again. We also found out her name was “Lucky” and how appropriate that name had turned out to be.
Lucky stayed with us for the next few days as she recovered from smoke inhalation. On the day she was scheduled for discharge, the family called us to report some very happy news. They had been allowed to revisit what was left of their home after to see if any items were salvageable. Nothing really seemed to be in any shape for them to use. However, they were surprised when they walked into their former den that contained the charred remains of their couch. Sitting there, as if she was waiting to be found, was their other cat. Besides being very hungry, she was in good health. Although they had lost so much, the family could not help but be thankful for all that they had found.
(Dr. Amanda Rainey, DVM, is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences at the University of Tennessee Veterinary Medical Center in Knoxville.)