Felix Survives Being Buried Alive for Thirty-Five Days in the Rubble of the Kölner Stadtarchivs
"Der bewegt sich! Der lebt!"
-- Feuerwehrmann Stefan Lorscheid
Firefighters Stefan Lorscheid and Alexander Hintzen were sifting through the more than sixty tons of rock and debris that once was the Koln archives at around 3:15 p.m. on April 6th when Lorscheid unexpectedly heard a faint meow. Upon investigation, he spied the head and front paws of a mackerel-colored cat staring back at him from out of the ruins.
Even more astonishingly, it was alive. "Der bewegt sich! Der lebt!" he is quoted in the April 6th edition of the Kolner Stadt-Anzeiger as calling out to Hintzen. (See "Kater Felix uberlebt in den Trummern.")
The cat, entombed on top of a piece of wall with four large stones above him, had been in that position for the past thirty-five days ever since the Stadtarchivs and the adjoining apartment building in which he lived at 220 Severinstrasse had collapsed on March 3rd. (See photo above of Lorscheid pointing to the spot of the rescue.)
Thanks to the fifty or so Lost Cat fliers that the moggy's guardian, thirty-four-year-old Andrea Schroeder, had tacked to lampposts in the neighborhood, the firemen immediately knew that they had rescued Felix. Without further ado, they forgot all about the precious documents that they were searching for and promptly contacted Schroeder who was soon reunited with Felix. (See photo below.)
"Ich hab's im Gefuhl gehabt, dass Felix nicht tot ist," Schroeder, who works for the telephone company, declared to the Kolner Express on April 6th. (See "Kater nach vier Wochen aus den Trummern gerettet.") "(Er ist) ein Kampfer."
In addition to being a testimonial to his guardian's determination and never say die attitude, Felix's miraculous rescue is one more piece of evidence that Lost Cat posters do produce amazing results. (See Cat Defender post of November 7, 2008 entitled "Ginger Boy Is Found Safe and Sound after Roaming the Streets of Harringay Ladder for Nearly Two Months.")
The twelve-year-old cat was placed in a cardboard box and given some water before being taken to veterinarian Hanns Georg Schutz who later pronounced him to be in remarkably good shape with the exception of being dehydrated, famished, and extremely weak. His only visible injuries were two broken claws. (See bottom photo.)
Schutz did, however, give him a jab of vitamins and a saline injection and he is expected to make a complete recovery provided that none of his vital organs were adversely affected by his trying ordeal. "Wir hoffen das Beste," Schroeder told the Rheinische Post on April 11th. (See "Koln: Wie Kater Felix uberlebte.")
He furthermore has been placed on a special diet and is being given electrolytes. "Er ist sehr schwach und kippt um, wenn er zum Beispiel alleine aufs Sofa klettern will," Schroeder told the Kolner Stadt-Anzeiger in the article cited supra. ""Er frisst auch noch nicht, schnurrt aber, wenn man ihn streichelt."
Since the bed in which he was sleeping at her parents' apartment perished in the collapse, Schroeder has gotten him a new one along with another litter box. Both he and her parents are now bunking at her place.
Veterinarians speculate that Felix survived by drinking rain water, of which Koln certainly has had plenty of recently. Also, cats as a rule are hardy animals with an ironclad will to live. That is the only way that they have flourished for so long in a hostile world.
"Katzen sind unglaublich zahe Tiere und konnen bis zu sechs Wochen ohne Nahrung auskommen, wenn sie einigermassen gut genahrt sind," veterinarian Stephan Paufler told the Rheinische Post on April 6th. (See "Kater Felix aus Trummern gerettet.")
Cats additionally are capable of feeding off of their reserves of fat as well as being able to slow down their metabolism rates and thus conserve energy. The rain water that Felix was able to lick up provided him with just enough moisture in order to prevent him from dying of thirst and to keep his kidneys functioning.
While all of that is no doubt of paramount concern, it nevertheless fails to do justice to how Felix was able to cope with the loneliness, hopelessness, and psychological torture that accompanied his long confinement. Moreover, in human terms he is the equivalent of sixty-four-years-old and for him to have mustered the will power to persevere is nothing short of amazing. It is doubtful that many young men, let alone senior citizens, would have been capable of doing the same.
Felix's travails also serve as a stark reminder of just how hazardous construction projects, both big and small, can be to cats. For example, a black Persian mix named Bonny was mistakenly entombed underneath a neighbor's bathtub in Stadthagen, Niedersachsen, last summer following the rupture of a water pipe in the apartment building in which she lived. (See Cat Defender post of September 8, 2008 entitled "Bonny Is Rescued at the Last Minute after Spending Seven Weeks Entombed Underneath a Bathtub.")
While Bonny's brush with death could have been prevented if her owner, Monika Hoppert, had been more attentive, there is not much that cat owners can do about disasters, such as the one in Koln, that occur without warning. Nonetheless, it is a good idea to know at all times where cats can be found and to keep a cage handy so that they can be quickly scooped up and carried to safety in an emergency.
Since Schroeder's parents knew where Felix was sleeping, it is unclear why they did not take him with them when they fled. More than likely, they were too intent upon saving their own skins to be bothered with a cat.
The collapse of Felix's dwelling and the Stadtarchivs has been blamed on the slipshod construction of an underground rail line. It is theorized that huge amounts of groundwater and mud seeped into the tunnels and thus weakened the supports of the structures overhead. Although it is not known how many cats were killed, the collapse claimed the lives of two young male apartment dwellers.
Prosecutors have filed preliminary charges of industrial negligence and manslaughter against "unknown persons." Once the official inquiry is completed, it is likely that the construction crew, the Kolner Verkehrsbetriebe (KVB), and possibly even members of City Council will find themselves in the dock. (See World Socialist, April 1, 2009, "The Collapse of the Cologne Stadt Archive Building Could Have Been Prevented.")
With sixty firemen and an army of volunteers painstakingly picking through the debris twelve hours a day, six days a week, approximately fifty per cent of the archives have been retrieved so far although they still need to be dried out, cleaned up, and reassembled. Included in the recovery are the papers of Konrad Adenauer, the Bundesrepublik's first chancellor, and manuscripts belonging to Albertus Magnus.
It is feared, however, that much of Koln's rich historical record, which dates back to Roman times, has been lost. (See Deutsche Welle, April 13, 2009, "Cologne's Historical Archive Faces a Long Road Back.")
Despite all of that, saving a life always takes precedent over retrieving old documents and that is why Dr. Daniel Leopold of Koln's Fire Department told the Rheinische Post in the April 6th article cited supra that rescuing Felix was "unserer schonster Fund."
On a somber note, Felix's sister, Cleo, remains among the missing.
Photos: Krasniqi of the Kolner Stadt-Anzeiger (Lorscheid in the rubble and Schroeder with Felix) and Deutscher Depeschendienst (Felix in a box).