This was written by a fellow cat rescuer, Ellen Lynch (the intrepid) about a recent rescue.
Cats are so resilient. Never give up, because the cats never do! The strength and ability of this cat, SPLASH, to survive, in the most frightening, dangerous, multiple, situations, is still on my mind, two days later. And, there is incredible relief and appreciation for what three humans did (yes, I am one of them,) hanging in there and trying everything possible, throughout an "all-nighter". This is likewise, a reminder: we can work together to help these animals get out of bad situations, and we should ask for help, instead of giving up. Unless we see a cat is dead, keep trying! The feeling of helping this cat in this situation, ultimately saving his life, is beyond words. I am proud of the four of us: Three humans, and one cat.
Pics are attached, referenced in the following:
Pic one, is of SPLASH, once he was safe, in Merry's carrier. He looks "hella" better than he did earlier!
Christa, who happens to be a cat lover and rescue adopter, was driving with her husband this past Friday morning, on an 880 freeway overpass, by High St. She saw a tabby/white cat on the freeway, jump or fall over the side to the concrete road below, which led to the freeway on- ramps. This was an approximately forty-fifty foot drop. (Second pic was taken from the ground, showing the freeway above, where the cat fell). Christa and her husband exited the freeway and made their way to the area directly below, where they knew the cat had fallen. There, they saw the cat running back and forth across the median, by the freeway entrance, on the ground.
Christa watched the cat run to the large storm drain grate, (pic three) and disappear under an opening, by the concrete wall abutting the drain. She could then see the cat, huddled on a narrow steel beam, by the edge of the concrete wall. (Pic 3. Believe it or not, there is water below, though it doesn't look like it in the pic). The drop from this beam, to the water below, where several storm drain pipes emptied, was about eight feet. This very large storm drain basin, looked to be a couple of feet deep, and water was moving in different directions.
Christa called all the public agencies that one would think could help in this situation, including Oakland Animal Control/Services. Nobody was reachable, or if they were, could not help. As some of us have also found from our experiences with cats in storm drains, the message from any of these agencies is pretty much, "we don't rescue animals." They say call Animal Control, but Animal Control does not have enough Officers to handle all the calls, plus, they cannot necessarily get access to large storm drains that have locks on them, or get help from other agencies. And, the skill and patience level of them is an unknown. Not to mention, good luck even reaching them! Nobody wants to step on the toes of another public agency.
It seems there needs to be a "protocol" for helping cats trapped in various drains, and a number to call, so that different agencies can communicate better in these emergencies, and get help for the cat. I will send an email to Rebecca Katz, and ask her to look into this.
When Christa could not get any help, by mid afternoon, she called Merry, who she knew. Merry met her at the site, and also made calls to get help. She set a covered trap, close by, so if the cat came back up, to ground level, hopefully he would go in for food, or safety.
At some point in the evening, Merry called me,as she knew I had dealt with a couple/few cats in storm drains. She was trying to figure out how best to get help from these agencies, and ask about my experiences. I wanted to see the situation, and met Merry over there. The cat was hunched on the thin beam. You could see some blood on his nose. A Highway Patrol car pulled up, rather suddenly, and two officers came over and asked us what we were doing. We told them, and they softened a bit, however, walked on the grate, shined flashlights and talked loudly to the cat, "Hi Kitty, kitty, kitty !". We both told the Officers that we thought this was a feral cat, since he was not making a sound, crying for help. That did not stop the Officers from talking loudly to the cat. Were we really going to push the issue with them? One said, "well, cats are not good swimmers", and walked away.
They told us they were there in response to a lead that sideshow activity was going to be occurring there, that night. They were some thirty feet from us, went back to their car, and stayed inside, for the duration. They had told us they would make some calls to see if they could help the cat.
I went over and checked with them a couple of times, and they said, "we can't do anything. And, you're going to have to leave if sideshow activity starts". I asked them if they could help us get the grate off, or get into the metal door/room which may have access out of sight, to the area below. They said, "no, we cannot get access. The City or Public works has to do this". They weren't going to break any locks, no matter what.
Merry and I talked about the options, and tried to guess what the cat would do. The grate he was under, had a large padlock on it, so we could not lift it. If the cat was scared, or tired, worn out from everything, he might fall into the water, or even jump, and all would be lost as he would drown.
This was very stressful. I suggested putting a piece of two by four wood across the narrow ladder that led down from the locked grate.. one of those ladders that is just made up of narrow metal rods, far apart, in hopes he could step on that, and more safely get up to the ground, where at least he would not stand a chance of drowning. And, if we could somehow contain that area, as in netting or tarping, we could hope he would go in the trap, or carrier. However, that too presented problems, and we discussed them.
We both went home to get "supplies", nets, wood, rope, sheets, to try to address all possibilities, while we hoped against hope that some agency Merry had called, starting with OPD, would respond. We hoped Public Works would come out, or City of Oakland agency.
We returned, and I started to put a piece of wood on the ladder, so the cat could have a chance to stand on that and get his body around, up above.
I thought since the cat had not been freaked enough to jump, or fall into the water, when the Patrol men flashed lights and talked loudly, directly above him, it would be ok to put a piece of wood just below. I was wrong. As I slowly put the wood there, I heard a loud splash, and knew he had fallen, or jumped. Merry and I could not see him, in the water, using our flashlights. This was the worst feeling in the world. After a couple of minutes, we saw him, down the way, around the corner, below the wall, hanging on, person-like, to another rod-type ladder, nearly out of site. He was clinging with his front legs, looking very tentative, and scared. Water was halfway up his body, moving. He was soaked. The water did not seem to be moving where he had fallen, and it is possible he swam to the ladder. It seemed amazing he managed to get to the one thing to hold onto.
We tried to think what we could possibly do, or put down through the tight grate, to help him. Very quickly, he dropped from the ladder, and was standing, almost out of site in water, which went under the wall/hill, under the closed door above. (Pic 4). This water seemed to be another outlet, but the water was at a lower level. It appeared to be just one spot he could stand on, that was not above his head. It was almost up to his head, but, fortunately, more shallow than the larger area, he had fallen into. It was hard to imagine he could last long, standing there, as the water was flowing, with periodic rushes out of pipes, and it was surely cold. He was injured, and appeared in shock.
After a few minutes,we did not see him. We looked everywhere, with flashlights, and speculated he was washed away beyond the wall, or drowned, or found something to cling onto, behind the wall, where we could not see. All of this was below the freeway.. so no chance to find an outlet somewhere.
For a long period of time, we made phone calls, and tied sheets and things down to the water, tied to the grate, hoping he could grab something, while we hoped someone would show up, or call to help. Without seeing his body, there had to be hope.
As I left to get something, Public Works showed up. They told Merry this was not their property, it was Caltran's, and they had no keys to the grate or lock to the door. They said they would call, Caltrans, and try to get them out. They said they could do nothing.
At some point, around 3:30-4:00 am, we realized a homeless man who had been around, had opened the mysterious door, and we were able to go in. It was pitch black. Using a flashlight, and looking everywhere, we were astounded to see, the cat, on a concrete ledge, some eight feet above the water.. He had managed to climb up one of those "ladders" with the thin rods. How he did that, is simply unfathonable. He was hunched on this six inch wide concrete ledge, up against the wall. This "room" was dark, just had a concrete platform, and access to two areas of flowing water, with those thin ladders. No way out, but the water below, or door we had gone through. The room appeared to not be used much, and the door looked rarely used. The cat could not have survived in there. (Pic 5) He would have starved or drowned.
We closed the door., leaving a set trap, and large carrier, with a blanket inside on the platform. The three of us decided to regroup at 7am. We needed to get nets, and other equipment, to be prepared to get the cat, and go into the water if we had to. The cat was a long reach from where we stood. If he fell in the water, it was deeper. We would have to quickly get down the ladder and scoop him out.
We met three hours later, Merry supplying really good, large nets. Christa looked ready for a boating expedition, was virtually water-proof, ready for the worst.
There was only room for two people, on that platform. Merry and I went in, with nets. The cat had been on the larger platform He was crouched at the edge, and quickly went back along the ledge, farther away from us. Merry and I, carefully, slowly reached our nets out, Merry on the far side, of the ledge, me on the closer side, to corner him where he was, hoping we could lean him one way or the other, into one of the nets, or net him as he fell...or quickly climb down in the water and grab him. It was a stretch for both of us, but this guy leaned over towards my net and I was able to quickly scoop him. Merry put her net on top, so he could not somehow climb out. He did not try. He was clinging onto the bottom net. We were able to carefully turn him over, Merry made the transfer with a towel, into the end-up carrier, so he was gently dumped in, and we carefully closed the door.
Merry took this guy to PETS Emergency, on University, as it was July 4th, and everyone else was closed.
Hours later, the report was: "SPLASH" had x rays, blood panel, and was able to have everything done without anesthesia.. just sedation. He was an un-neutered male, had a "traumatized liver", consistent with a fall against concrete. His front incisers were pushed in. Bruised and abraded lower chin. Minor fluid in his lungs. Neg/neg for FIV and Felv. All in all, not bad!
Merry has him. He is on some pain meds, and after he recovers, will be neutered, etc. Then, he needs a nice garden home.
If anyone can help find him a good home, please let Merry and ICRA know! And, of course, donations to ICRA are welcomed, if anyone is inclined to help with his bill.
More than anything, wanting people to know this great outcome, for this cat, and for the three of us. It feels great, knowing this guy will have a good life now. Also, I am reminded, again, how cats can survive the unimaginable, time and time again.