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A Tale of Herding Cats

Fire! What to do in a fur family emergency.


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Sassafras Lowrey

It was a normal morning in our house, we were up early, dogs had been walked, breakfast was eaten and we were hanging out in the living room in our pajamas when all of a sudden there was a loud bang on our apartment door. I rushed into our entryway at which point it hit me—the smell of smoke. Looking through the peephole I saw firefighters in full firefighting gear banging on all the doors of apartments on our floor. I panicked! Part of me wanted to open the door and ask the firefighters what was going on, but then my mind immediately went to our furry kids! We were going to have to evacuate the whole family!

 

My partner was already in motion pulling cat carriers out of the closet and together we were relatively easily able to shove the two cranky 15-year-old cats Sierra and Noirchat into their airline carriers they have only ever been in to move to NYC! The dogs were bouncing around our feet thinking this was a great game as we both turned our attention to trying to catch, and crate the youngest member of our family.

 

Thing is a year and a half year old kitten who we rescued from the street in the middle of a snowstorm when he was about six weeks old. He is affectionate very much on his own terms, and the rest of the time semi feral. Of course when he saw us running around putting the other cats into carriers he bolted under the couch. We shoved that couch away from the wall and he took off into our home office, and under the sofa bed. I closed the office door, grabbed a can of wet food and thought we had him, except he found a way into the mechanics of the couch. Thankfully at that moment my partner took over, and only sustained a couple of scratches freeing the kitten while I panicked holding the crate and sobbing that our cat was going to burn to death. Thankfully this process only ended up taking about 5 minutes from the first bang on the door, but it felt like forever.

 

With all the cats crated, and the dogs leashed we race out of our apartment and down the smoky stairwell into the building lobby—with only our cell phones and my wallet. We get to the lobby expecting to see all of our neighbors half dressed clutching pets and kids, but the lobby was empty. I called our building super totally confused. If it wasn’t for the smell of smoke I would have been worried that that somehow I had imagined the firefighters banging on our door!  

 

"The emergency is over, it was a false alarm," said the Super when he picked up. Evidently the firefighters had just left having determined that although they initially thought there was a fire on the 6th floor, in actuality some idiot neighbor had (badly) burned their breakfast and opened the door of their apartment instead of the windows flooding the entire 101 unit building with smoke!  This was of course the best possible outcome of having your hallway filled with smoke and firefighters at your door!

 

We got back upstairs relived, and a little shaken. I haven't given as much thought to our family's fire safety as I should have. Other than making sure we had cat crates easily accessible we haven’t thought much about how we would quickly evacuate the family – especially the cats, but this false alarm was a big wake up call for us. The first thing my partner and I decided when we got back upstairs into our apartment unleashed the dogs and let the disgruntled cats out of their carriers,  is that we need to start having monthly family fire drills to get the critters, especially the cats, more comfortable with going into their carriers and being able to quickly and safely evacuate our apartment.

 

I've also been reading up on all kinds of fire safety tips for families with pets. The AKC ironically posted a great one the other day http://www.akc.org/news/tips-help-dog-fire/which includes a lot of fire prevention tips but also suggestions for keeping your furry kids safe in case there is a fire that impacts your home. I plan to pick up Pet Alert window clings right away, which are stickers to put on your windows/doors to alert firefighters about what kind of pets we have inside in case God forbid there ever was a real fire in our building and we weren't home.

 

How about you? What kind of plans do you have in place to protect your furry family members I case of fire, or other emergency situations?   

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