Cat has been in the heating vent for two days, not eating or drinking.


TCS Member
Alpha Cat
Jun 1, 2022
I'm so glad she's out! And she's so cute!! What a terrifying experience, thankfully with a happy ending.


Officially a cat lady now. No regrets.
Super Cat
Feb 2, 2020
You'll hear the full story tomorrow since I've been up over 24 hours doing nothing but thinking of this cat and then trying to save her from her hole! I need a shower and some sleep.
Oh my gosh I was in tears reading this and ready to reply to you to tell you to BE THAT PERSON, Be mean, yell, scream, whatever you had to do to get people to listen to you to go get the cat x.x I went through a situation just like this (oddly it is what prompted me to join this site in panic looking for ideas on how to get my girl out.) Sadly my situation didn't have a happy ending, because no one listened to me and now I know to just be a raging B word to get people to help/pay attention in situations like this.

I'm so so happy the kitty is safe and out! I know exactly how nervous you were feeling.
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #29


TCS Member
Thread starter
Jun 22, 2022
It has been such a long time! But I remembered everyone who was kind and helped me on this thread, and decided I owe y'all the full saga... My cat is fully recovered and doing amazing to this day, first of all. I just played a few rounds of fetch with her and she was jumping around like crazy!

Also, I was informed that the correct term for the "vent" is actually an "HVAC duct." I feel like saying "vent" might have put a certain image in most people's heads. I'm going to keep calling it a vent though since it's what I've called it for quite a bit now. Here's what it looks like. And right below where that pipe goes in... is a hole!


BUT now, the (w)hole story...

After consulting with everyone here, we called someone with one of those cameras that can snake into tight little holes like this. Roto Rooters put the camera in and did not find my missing cat... whose name is Mila! I don't know if this is due to poor effort (my landlord met with me to talk about it and was very aggressive about putting the fact out that the RR guy was no good, but he may have just been covering himself and limiting his liability). Anyway, he said that he did not see the cat, but the layout of the hole seemed to be that it went down about 10 feet. There were a few ledges, some small spaces that he may not have checked out clearly on the way down... but he got to the bottom at least and was able to saw it was a closed space that did not open out anywhere. So it was not likely that the crawl space beneath the house would have been connected to it.

This job was done the day before I came home, because my roommate was very worried since she had not seen my cat for what would have been three days on that day. Three days without water was not a risk we wanted to take. But because the RR guy did not see Mila in there with his camera, she called me and we thought it was likely that my cat had jumped out of a window left open (we live on the second story).

I came home that day, about 10 in the morning, and checked on my first cat (TJ). He was okay and was sitting in my room... the second I came home though, he leapt out of the room and made a break for that vent. He didn't go anywhere near the hole though, just sat at the entrance! He's quite the fat boy so I didn't think he'd fit down the hole. I decided to go outside and call for my other cat since now it seemed to me that it was no longer a mission to get her to come out of the vent, but to come home.

I went back in the house after a couple hours of no success and went to coax TJ out of the vent. I got down on my hands and news to look into the vent and to get him out with treats... and what did I hear below the floorboards but meowing. Mila was crying, and TJ was sitting right on top of the entrance of the vent as if to comfort her/lead me to her crying. I could never have found out that she was in there if not for TJ. I am beyond grateful that I adopted them together with the thought in mind that they'd keep each other company so they would never be lonely even when I went to work... I can only imagine the despair I would be in now if maybe I had only decided to adopt Mila alone and lost her like this.

I cannot explain in accurate words how terrible the next 12 hours was. Now we knew she had been in there for four days and counting. She still had a little strength in her mew to call out, but probably because she was conserving that energy until I came home. She did not call out until I was there in person. I started calling and calling... Animal services/animal control in Oakland, my area, said they had no equipment and could not come out. The non emergency police number that was listed on their site for "an animal in distress" connected me to a responder who said nothing could be done, and to call the fire department. When I had called the Fire Department near tears, they said "I don't know why you would call us for something like this. I don't know who would say to call us." The nonchalance and annoyance in her voice was not something I needed to hear when I had a cat in a life threatening situation!

As suggested here on and on the cat forum, I started calling animal control again now that I knew Mila was in there. No response from Oakland still, who were on voicemail! I was so desperate that I started calling other cities nearby. The only animal control number that yielded me any results is the nearby city of Berkeley, who actually seem to staff their phones during hours and even though they said they could not come out to Oakland, they gave me what advice they could on trying to get an animal out of a tight space like that. I also called the Rooters guy for advice on what he thought about the hole. He confirmed that the depth of the hole meant she could be far down enough to be in the neighbour's ceiling or wall, and that if worst came to worst, we might have to cut through the neighbour's wall and get her out.

Now, as for what physical action we could actually take... My roommate and I were panicking. She started formulating a plan as she is more handy with tools than I am. The answer seemed to be to grab a studfinder and a saw and hack our way into the drywall in the washer/dryer room next to that vent's crawlspace... and to try to access the hole as closely as possible to see what was going on inside and if we could cut down through the floor to get Mila. The whole time she was crying under the floor, from what sounded like several feet down. But we had no eyes on what was in there or where she could be in the hole.

The chain of lucky events for me continued. My roomie's brother is an engineer and upon being informed of the situation, he said to wait for him. He did not want us cutting through anything dangerous -- be it a wire, a gas pipe, water pipe, etc... And this building is old enough that he was concerned about asbestos and lead.

He came a couple hours after I learnt my cat was under the floor and still in that hole. During that time, I had stayed next to the vent, calling to Mila and hearing her calling back. She sounded miserable and scared. After about 20 minutes of this, I heard her banging around doing something... and then silence. I was scared, of course, but there was nothing to do but wait for my roomie's bro to arrive. My imagination ran to some awful places: what if she had fallen down deeper, deeper into the hole, too deep to retrieve? The Roto Rooters guy's words of how the hole could go down 10 feet... it sat in my head the whole time. But I held out hope as we waited for my roomie's brother to arrive.

(Right after Mila had stopped crying out, I was lucky that TJ had decided to hop out of the hole for a bit. I captured him in his crate and put the crate next to the vent, knowing that his presence had helped comfort his sister and encouraged her to cry out. He was not happy in the crate at first, huffing around and trying to push his way out, presumably to get back into the vent's entrance. But he calmed down eventually.)

When my roomie's bro did arrive, his first thought: let's lower food and water down to her. Without much visibility into the hole, we had to fill ziplocs with water and food, cut a hole in the top for string, and lower it down to wherever we could to ensure that if Mila could reach them, she would have nutrition and hydration.

For the rescue. My roomie's brother tried first to pull the furnace panel off the wall. The thing was too heavy and despite all the bolts he pulled out of it, it was stuck fast. He was able to stick his phone inside the space inside though and ascertain that the wall of the washer/dryer room did not look too old... and that we could cut a hole large enough for a person to crawl through, without worrying about asbestos. Luckily, the last tenants had made off with the washer and dryer, so for us it was just a closet of things that could be cleared out. So armed with his knowledge of how to use a studfinder and how to bust through a wall safely, we cut that hole. We were able to get sights into the hole, but did not hear anything. At this point, we were five or six hours into the process of trying to rescue her. Since we could no longer hear her, my roomie's brother was not optimistic. I was in tears. I had to take TJ into my room, let him out with the door closed, and spend a few minutes with him trying to calm down. When I was able, we brainstormed what we could before roomie's bro left -- that if Mila had fallen down into the hole when she heard my voice, trying to get to me, she could be far down enough to be in the neighbour's wall.

We checked with the downstairs neighbour. He stated that he had not heard anything. I called for Mila... did not hear her.

We went back to our apartment. My roommate, stressed for days about this situation, needed a break and left the house for a bit. She assured me that we were going to recover Mila, one way or another. She would not give up on the lives one of our cats. For now, she said, I needed to make calls. Find someone who could help us get into that hole. We had an upper limit on cost, since we already spent $500 on Roto Rooters to stick that camera in. We could not afford something like a general contractor, but we were willing to stretch the rest of our money to get Mila out.

I called and called. Plumbers, electricians, animal control/wildlife control nearby and even in other cities... anyone outside of Oakland could not come and help as it was out of their jurisdiction. I was being run in circles as to who I could contact, and as for people who could actually help... I was finding none.

At this point, I had a small group of friends on another line helping me call around and brainstorm. We decided that I could make a rope ladder out of clothes. Hopefully she'd see that it smelled like me, and then she could climb out of the hole using the ladder. I'd never seen her climb something extensively like that before, so I was holding onto very distant hopes. I crawled into the drywall hole we made and made a clothes ladder long enough to reach in there. I was not hearing Mila even though the whole time, I was calling for her...

And then, as I was in the hole shining my flashlight down, I heard her. I was floored. I even had visuals into the actual hole now and a better place to hear her from. I knew she was in there, somewhere down in the hole, make no mistake about it.

In a moment of sheer adrenaline, I had the saw in hand ready to cut through the floor and try to hang down and grab Mila. I called my roommate, who told me to wait for her and that we had to figure out this situation. She came home. We used the studfinder, stuck our phones down into the hole, took video of the underside of the flooring... and all the while Mila called out to me, her mews hoarse and weaker but still THERE.

My roommate decided that we needed to wait for her brother the next day. We had no idea if we would cut through something important in the floor. Our visibility into the hole also told us that there were pipes down there aplenty. There was no way we could risk cutting into one of those pipes.

It was coming around to about 8-9pm now. We were both exhausted. She and I refined my clothes rope ladder so that it would fit into the hole better... we tied string around tupperware and filled the tupperware with water, lowering it down into the hole for Mila. At least she'd have food and water. My roommate also had an idea: We could hang a small flashlight down into the hole. Maybe it would help Mila to come up the ladder if she could see where her only exit, the hole, was. With all that done, The only thing we could do now was wait and rest.

I went into my room with TJ, who was very vocal and demanded my attention. Eventually though, he came up onto my bed and curled into my side and put his head on my shoulder. Still nervous but comforted, I drifted off into an uneasy sleep...

And then I woke up to the sound of my roommate knocking on my door, a couple hours after I'd drifted to sleep. "Wake up!" she was saying. "Mila is banging around in the vent! I think she's trying to climb the rope ladder!! We need to get in that hole."

I ran out as fast as I could. I crawled into the hole, and this time I saw a glimpse of her TAIL as she was walking around at the bottom of the hole! We started calling to her... she started crying out again, banging around. She was trying hard, and it was painful to hear. After a PARTICULARLY noisy thud, we got scared. If she kept trying to climb up to us, she could hurt herself, run out of energy, or even worse... somehow fall deeper into the hole where she was unreachable and could not extract herself! We pulled the rope ladder out, hoping she would stay where she was and not wander deeper in.

We sat outside in the room by the vent for a while, listening to her cry. I called Roto Rooters again, willing to spend another exorbitant bill to map out the layout of the hole (in person this time, where I could ensure EVERYTHING was done possible to get the information on how to extract my cat) and where we could get her out from safely.

We sat. We prayed. I even re-crated TJ and brought him outside next to the vent so Mila would know we were all there with her. We chatted with one another, quietly, about what we could do, and eventually we lulled into a deep silence.

Then a bang and thud. Occasionally, over and over. She was trying to get up to us. We waited, partly petrified and partly hopeful. All this was nerve-wracking, as we didn't know what could happen to her if she made a wrong jump, but it meant she had strength...

Then, as she was looking into the vent, my roommate covered her mouth with her hands. She told me "Mila's head is poking up."

I went into the washer/dryer space and sat by the hole we'd carved, calling out to Mila with treats and watching nervously... she poked her head around... she stared at me with wide eyes... and then she came to the washer/dryer space and let herself be grabbed.

I don't know what it was that day that got her out. The food and water that we'd gotten to her; the flashlight; the rope ladder that had helped her start navigating her way up.

Either way, I know that whoever's up there was watching me that day. Maybe having a little laugh before giving Mila the blessings she needed to haul herself out of there.

Anyway. After that (w)hole ordeal. I cannot stress how IMPORTANT it is to me that any friends with cats have their space cat-proofed to the max. That hole into the crawlspace behind the heater/vent/furnace whatever it is, it was under the heater and not immediately visible. Mila only discovered it after a couple months of us living here. Now knowing what I do, that she found her way into a terrible situation and that no one was willing or able to come out and help us? If I did not have the people I had, or the luck that I did, her curiosity could have be deadly. If she had been my only cat, I would maybe not have even known she was in there or calling out to me. Now that I know the terror of my cat being in a life-or-death situation and being rejected help at every phone call, I cannot imagine being in that situation under different circumstances where maybe, Mila could have been unable to move, perhaps due to injury, in that vent...

She was dehydrated and hungry when she came out. I am so lucky that that was all it was. I am going to get some photos of the situation for anyone who doubts that we cut that hole through the wall or went to the measures we did to get her out. We made sure she is okay physically and healthwise...

Thank you to everyone. Protect your cats, give them a little kiss for me. If I learnt anything, it's that this cat means the world to me. I don't know what I'd do if she wasn't here.

And of course feel free to ask me about any unclear details! There's quite a few more details that happened that I might have left out. This was lengthy as it is, and sorry if it's long winded and nonsensical. I can't express in words how terrifying the whole thing was. I'm putting this whole story here in case anyone else has a similar situation, looks up "cat got stuck in vent," and finds this thread. I looked up so many stories hoping to feel some sense of reassurance or to get a sense of direction. My favourite article that I found was by a guy whose kitten got stuck in a hole behind the bathtub that apparently went down quite a few feet! His story ended in happiness when he broke his cat out with a sledgehammer. Maybe my story will give someone else reassurance!

Needless to say, shortly after the affair, I picked up some hardware cloth from Home Depot, dug out a few nails, and crawled into the hole in the drywall so I could use the studs inside the wall. With a little work...



Now the cats wander around all day and we have had no more hole incidents!

And some pictures of the tortie vent lover and her orange hero of a brother!








TCS Member
Top Cat
Oct 5, 2010
Thank you for the happy ending. Glad to read that all is well.

I can relate to your happy ending after the despair. As a young cat my Domino went up onto the kitchen cabinets on the wall, strolled over to the end and dropped 7 feet down into the narrow spacer unit. Once we found where he was it involved removing the pantry unit on very heavy glides and cutting a hole in the wooden panel so I could scruff and pull him out. But he was only in there for a few hours. We were still frantic. I can only guess how distraught you must have been!

All is well that ends well, for you and Mila, her handsome orange brother, and your roommate. And yes, just like your "close the opening so this won't happen again" the last thing the carpenter who came to fix the wall panel did, was to put a trim piece up top so when his nibs goes walk-about he cannot disappear again.


Staff Member
Jun 21, 2014
Los Angeles
Thank you so much for telling us what happened! That is a real cliff hanger of a story and you were so resourceful in rescuing Mila. She looks great despite her ordeal. The part about how TJ tried to help is so touching and speaks to the bond of animals to each other.

Margot Lane

Kitten at heart, not a Top Cat
Top Cat
Oct 24, 2021
Thanks so much for letting us know! Had been wondering!!! For the record, firemen DO help, just not, apparently, inside apt. buildings in cities. (Maybe it’s only up ladders next to trees, on charming British teevee shows!).😬


Forum Helper
Staff Member
Forum Helper
Nov 25, 2013
Thank you for coming back and sharing the story of Mila's rescue. I'm sure someday someone in a similar situation will get encouragement and hope from reading this.