The Ductwork Adventure

Alternate title: The Weirdest Birth Metaphor Ever

It all began with a knock on my door on Friday night.

Sasha was startled by the noise and immediately raced upstairs to hide under the bed, which is where she stayed until my friend and I left for the movies. When we got back, she was nowhere to be seen. After searching the house from top to bottom a few times, I found her inside the box spring. I rattled her out of there, because I don’t want her to think the box spring is a cool place to hang out. She raced downstairs toward her usual hiding spot in the couch, spotted the person she didn’t know, and turned around and raced back upstairs. When I went to bed, I felt her crawling around in the box spring, and as I fell asleep, I planned to write a Princess and the Pea metaphor in this space, and figured she’d chill out and be two inches from my face meowing by the next morning.

But she wasn’t.

And she wasn’t hiding in the couch downstairs.
And she wasn’t hiding in the box spring (and, actually, won’t get in the box spring at all anymore since I cut off the torn lining on the bottom).

An hour or so of searching confirmed that she also was not in the recliner, the closets, the cupboards, the drawers, the bathtub, the washer, the dryer, the dishwasher, the refrigerator, or my suitcases.

Shortly after I moved in, I took the old bent-up register grate off of the HVAC duct in my bedroom in the hopes that it would draw more cool air upstairs without the messed-up grate in the way. On Saturday morning, I got down on my belly and put a flashlight down in that hole to see if I could see her, or hear her collar bell jingling. Nothing. But I didn’t know where else she could possibly be.

It was very late on Saturday night before I finally was able to confirm that she was alive and stuck in the ductwork, and I had no idea how I’d get her out. I still have no idea how she managed to fit her fat ass through a 90 degree bend into a duct only slightly bigger than a grapefruit, but cats are magic that way. She finally started to thump around a little bit, and I managed to see a glimpse of her ass, about ten feet in, by angling a flashlight and hand mirror just so.

I thought I’d go to sleep and see if she found her way out overnight, but my room smelled like clams (I had put out a dish of chopped clams to try to lure her out, unsuccessfully.) so I grabbed a pillow and headed downstairs to the couch to try to sleep there instead. But every time she’d thump or meow, I’d freak out and jump up and run to whatever register seemed closest to try to coax her to it so I could get her out.

In the process, I’d removed the register from one of my ceiling vents in the living room and had been unable to reattach it. At about 7 on Sunday morning, after hours upon hours of running and thumping and angling mirrors and coaxing, she stuck her head out of that open ceiling vent.

Problem: I am short. And my ceiling is high enough that when I stood on a folding chair and stood on tiptoe and stretched as high as I could, I could just reach far enough to touch her ears with my fingertips. She was going to need help getting out, and I didn’t have enough reach to do it.

So I ended up dragging my little kitchen table into the living room under the vent, and getting on the folding chair and from there onto the table, where I could reach Sasha with both hands and also determine that a) she had wet herself at some point, and b) she was totally freaked out. I actually think she was in shock – she was shaking and her pupils were ginormous and she was just kind of…well, glazed. If that makes sense.

It took leather work gloves, major feline cooperation, and about a half-hour of work to get her out of the vent. She was pretty awesome about trying to help me help her, and didn’t freak out even when I was about to pull her head off. She’d back up and twist and try a different position, or she’d brace one paw while I worked on the other. Eventually I got her head and shoulders free, and then once I had her front legs out the rest was pretty easy. So easy, in fact, that all of a sudden I had 8 pounds of filthy freaked-out cat falling out of the ceiling into my arms. I almost dropped her. But then I didn’t so that’s good.

She was weak and wobbly and covered from head to toe in dirt and pee and spiders. So then she got a bath, which was Traumatic Episode #2 for the weekend. But again, due to weakness or shock or some combination of elements, she didn’t fight too hard, although every time I took my hands off her she tried to jump out of the tub and climb on top of the wall cabinet. So I ended up bathing her in about a half a bottle of Johnson & Johnson’s lavender and chamomile Bedtime Bath, because that’s the only bottle I could reach while still holding on to her. She’s very fluffy and sweet-smelling now, at least.

My house still smelled vaguely of pee last night. I put everything she’d touched into the washer before I went to bed, and it didn’t seem so pee-ish when I left this morning, but I might have gotten used to it. So we’ll see how it smells when I go home for lunch. I don’t have any idea what I’m going to do if the pee smell lingers in the air vents.

I might have to wrap her up in a damp cloth soaked in Nature’s Miracle and send her back through the vents to clean them out.

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