A couple of months ago today, I was headed to the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop, somewhere on I-74, listening to a Maeve Binchy book and dreaming of my new adventure. That’s when it happened — I got the call. My husband was calling, mid-afternoon — alarming anytime, but more so today. Who died or what couldn’t he find — equally possible — and the dreaded thought — what can I do about it in the middle of Indiana?
I answered the phone and a sinking feeling set in as he said, “ I wasn’t sure if I should bother you…but…”. Nothing prepared me for what he said next. “I think there is a cat in the furnace, listen to this.” The next thing I heard him say was, “kitty, kitty” and that cat called back with an anxious “MEOW, MEOW”…Holy Catastrophe, we have a cat in the furnace!!!
My first thought was this thing is going to die in our furnace and the smell of a dead animal would permeate our house. My next thought was, oh crap, now we need to buy a new furnace — sorry, I didn’t really think about the poor cat first – just my horror. The thoughts in my head were racing through all of the bad ways this thing could go — and it dawned on me — my husband was looking for me to help him figure out what to do. I’m 400 miles away in car headed to Dayton, Ohio and I felt helpless.
Where do you start? Stunned, I asked, “How do you think it got there?”
Apparently this story started a few days earlier when our scruffy, Jack Russell terrier, Ernie who was protecting our house from critters, chased it on to our roof. He was going crazy barking at the roof, but we couldn’t see anything and blew it off, as we often do.
Not until I had left on my trip on Tuesday did the cat drop — literally — my husband had heard some loud clunking noises in the basement which he warily went downstairs to check it out.
Nothing and he couldn’t get our “brave” dog to investigate so he chalked up to our Scandinavian poltergeist, Aven Baineless…
The next afternoon, the noises from the basement started again, thump, bang, and this time a meow. Our cats were accounted for, so what the heck was going on in the basement. Eric and his tools headed down and this time discovered the cat had dropped down into the ductwork going into the furnace. After taking off all the parts he could and still didn’t have the cat out — he called me. He swears he didn’t scream like a little girl when the furnace loudly clunked as he was looking for the offending noise–I’m not buying it.
“Call the furnace guys, they’ll know what to do”, I said. I don’t think Eric really wanted to pay for someone to get the cat out, but we were kind of stuck — dead cat aroma when the furnace came on or maybe a new furnace. He called them.
Little did we know that this was not a surprise to the furnace guys, they were sympathetic and nice – one even quipped he kept a kitty kit in his truck — cat treats, catnip and heavy gloves.
Dan, our furnace guy arrived about 30 minutes later. He immediately identified where the animal was — in the outgoing ductwork attached to the chimney. He had falled down our chimney some 15-20 ft into the furnace and couldn’t get back out. Dan pulled off some ductwork, but the scared cat scooted out of the way again.
With a small mirror on a telescoping rod and flashlight, Dan could see the cat a few feet away but not reach him. There was no way to get the cat out without hurting it and tearing the chimney apart was not an option. The solution was to leave the ductwork off and hope the cat would come out on his own. Even though it was rather cold, Dan told us not to use the furnace until the cat came out and the ductwork connected again. Carbon monoxide would fill the room and the house — not a good plan.
Dan left and no more than 10 minutes later our cat, Cheena, started acting curiously about something in the basement. She led Eric straight to the stray cat who was loose in our basement. A little scrape on his head, but seemed no worse for the wear after four days trapped in the dark and half roasted by the furnace.
This was all happening while I was in the middle of Indiana on my way to Erma. Eric had called with a couple of updates and I was relieved it was at least out of the furnace. Dan came back and put the furnace back together and after an hour or so the cat ate some food, drank some water and started exploring the house. Eventually when Eric opened the kitchen door the cat darted out and ran for the hills. The cat was gone — as mysteriously as it appeared.
Cat out of the furnace $86.67……
No need for Cat-Kababs….priceless