I arrived to the shelter and before I could even put my things down, I was immediately notified that the Animal Services Officers would be needing my assistance in the field. A cat, presumably feral, had gotten its head trapped in a very small hole in a large metal door on the side of a metal shop in San Jose.
I gathered my equipment and headed out into the field with an officer.
The officer transported me to a warehouse-like building that was the metal shop. There were many large (and loud!) pieces of equipment within the building, and one wall had a several thick metal doors that were essentially continuous with the walls of the building. The doors had small holes in them that were about 1″ to 1.5″ in diameter, but there was one door that had a slightly larger hole. This was the hole that a cat decided to escape through. Unfortunately, it failed.
When I arrived, the original officer to respond to the scene was present and showed me to the location within the warehouse where the cat was located.
The cat was definitely stuck and was in an awkward position, groaning and periodically flailing trying to get free.
We moved outside and around the building to gauge how the cat looked on the other side. Unfortunately, he looked even worse on the other side. His head was wedged very tightly within the hole, and he had blood in his mouth. A streak of dried blood also ran down the door, and a small spot of blood resided on the ledge below his head.
There was no way that the cat’s body would follow him out of the hole, so we were faced with the prospect of getting the cat’s head back through the hole. The back-up plan, which I did not want to resort to, was to use power tools at the metal shop to cut him out. That prospect scared me.
I gave the cat a sedative and a strong pain medication to make him more comfortable, and we waited for him to calm down. He calmed down quite a bit, but due to the loud sounds in the metal shop, he didn’t calm down as much as I had hoped even with a little extra dose.
We still had to try. Unfortunately, he was very wedged into the hole.
I went outside of the building with lubricating jelly in hand, determined to get the cat unstuck before resorting to power tools. I determined that there was a small amount of free space between the cat’s head and the door which I could stick a fingertip through. This area was my only hope. The issue, as I saw it, was the thickest part of the cat’s face that was stuck was the right ear, which at the base is much thicker than the rest of the face. I theoretically needed the cat’s face to rotate 60˚ to 90˚ counter-clockwise to align the ear with that free space.
I spoke calmly to the cat as I applied the lubricating jelly around his face to the areas that were stuck. I spoke through the door to the officer on the other side to coordinate the effort. I instructed the officer to push the cat towards the door to decrease the tension on the ear and rotate the cat. Essentially, this meant picking up the cat and turning it more or less upside down.
It was certainly a struggle. I was pushing on the cat’s face to help guide the lubricated areas under the metal of the door. I was, however, using my hands that had no more protection than a simple latex glove very close to this cat’s face, knowing that this cat could potentially bite me at any moment. I knew that I needed to be careful. I also knew that this cat needed to be freed, and if that meant getting bit, it’s what I had to do.
Once I was able to get the problematic ear back through the hole, I thought we were in the clear, but a few additional areas required some manipulation. We quickly guided these areas through the hole, sighing in relief as the cat meowed loudly after finally being freed. He proceeded to look back at the officer holding him, finally able to move his head!
I ran inside to assess his injuries, which to my surprise were minor. The cat had lacerations over his left eye and right ear along with some blood in his mouth, likely from where he bit his gums during his panicked attempts to free himself. Otherwise, he looked to be healthy.
The officers and I smiled at each other and patted each other on the back, knowing we had done a great thing!
The cat returned to the shelter with me and was given a more thorough examination. I started him on medications, and he will have a behavior evaluation before it is determined whether he will be either an adoption candidate or released back where he came from. Of course, as you might imagine, if he is released back where he came from, we will ensure that the metal shop patches up the holes in the doors so that no other cats run into the same problem that this cat did.
Two days after the kitty was rescued and came to the San Jose Animal Care Center, he was already well on his way to healing and we learned that he wasn’t a feral cat after all! He loves chin scratches and rolling around on his back so he can get belly rubs!
After his rescue, this kitty, now named Leon, became one of the medical clinic’s favorite patients. He was such a sweetheart while he was treated for his wounds as well as a cat bite abscess on his face that healed and then re-opened, as well as upper respiratory infection (URI). He is now up for adoption and can be seen in one of the shelter’s community cat rooms. We couldn’t be happier with the way Leon’s story has turned out, the only thing missing is his forever home (but I’m certain it won’t take him long to find it)!