Trapped Outdoors in a Snowstorm, Annie Is Brought Back from the Dead by the Compassion of a Good Samaritan and an Animal Control Officer
"On first response, she appeared dead. She was cold, stiff, and unresponsive. When I picked her up, I did hear an agonal cry, but that sometimes happens postmortem."
-- Animal Control Officer Hilary Cohen
Winters in the frigid northeast exact a grievously high toll upon cats that are left exposed to the elements. For in addition to the constant threat of hypothermia, the scarcity of food makes surviving for any measurable length of time almost impossible. Massive snowstorms compound these already formidable problems by making it extremely difficult for these diminutive creatures to even get around.
Since records of this sort are not kept, no one knows exactly how many cats fall victim each year to the cruel machinations of Old Man Winter but the carnage surely must be in the tens of thousands at a minimum. Earlier this month, a thirteen-year-old tuxedo named Annie from the Boston suburb of Norfolk would have perished in his icy grip if it had not been for the timely intervention of a Good Samaritan and an animal control officer.
Annie was discovered emaciated and apparently frozen to death in a snowdrift on January 2nd near Main Street and Sweetland Farm by an unidentified Good Samaritan. The rescuer wrapped her in a blanket, placed her inside a garage, and then telephoned Norfolk Animal Control Officer Hilary Cohen.
Upon arrival on the scene, Cohen initially thought that the only thing left for her to do was to play undertaker. "On first response, she appeared dead," she told The Sun Chronicle of Attleboro on January 5th. (See "Cold Kitty Case in Norfolk.") "She was cold, stiff, and unresponsive. When I picked her up, I did hear an agonal cry, but that sometimes happens postmortem."
Even though the situation looked hopeless, Cohen nevertheless elected to try and save Annie's life. "I kept her in the blanket and put her on my lap in the cruiser and headed to the hospital," she told WBZ-TV of Boston on January 5th. (See "Cat Found Frozen, Thaws, Survives.") "Once in the car, I turned the heaters on and saw a whisker twitch. That was the only sign of reflex I saw from her."
It was enough, however, and along with the heat it most likely saved Annie's life. It is unclear why the Good Samaritan did not take Annie inside and attempt to thaw her out as opposed to leaving her in the garage. After all, common sense would seem to dictate that what she need most was heat.
Once Cohen realized that Annie was still alive she stepped on the gas and rushed her to Acorn Animal Hospital in nearby Franklin where the trained staff already was expecting her arrival. Comatose and with a body temperature of only eighty-six degrees Fahrenheit, fifteen below normal for a feline, the staff used electric blankets, hair dryers, hot water bottles, and heat disks in a desperate bid to elevate Annie's temperature. (See top photo.)
She also was given intravenous fluids and steroids. Blood tests were administered, blood sugar levels monitored, and her heart rate, which was surprisingly good, constantly checked.
The staff's superlative work paid off when Annie miraculously returned to the world of the living several hours later. "I've seen different kinds of animal issues over the years but I've never seen an animal this cold be revived," Cohen marveled in a video that accompanies the WBZ-TV article cited above. (See "Frozen Cat Gets Another Chance at Life.")
Two days later, Annie was up and about eating and drinking. The nourishment was almost as welcome as the heat in that she weighed only three and one-quarter pounds when rescued. (See photo above.)
Because she needed additional heat therapy, Cohen generously took Annie home with her rather than dumping her off at a shelter. Annie's incredible streak of good fortune continued on January 5th when her previous owners, having read about her misadventures in The Sun Chronicle, came forward to reclaim her.
They reportedly had lived in Norfolk for only about a week before Annie disappeared and although she was found only three-quarters of a mile from home she nonetheless had crossed railroad tracks and several other obstacles in the course of her ill-fated journey. It thus would appear that the intrepid feline was attempting to return to her old abode.
Relocating a cat is a risky proposition under any circumstances and those who fail to heed the old adage that "dogs belong to people, cats to places" are flirting with disaster. (See Cat Defender posts of May 8, 2009 and July 16, 2007 entitled, respectively, "Domino, Feral and All Alone, Faces an Uncertain Future in Wisconsin Following an Unplanned Trip to Arizona" and "Accidentally Trapped in a Shipping Crate, Calico Cat Named Spice Survives Nineteen-Day Sea Voyage from Hawaii to San Bernardino.")
It therefore generally is a good idea to keep a cat either indoors or enclosed in a fenced-in yard for at least four to six weeks after relocating. Hopefully, after that it will have adjusted to its new environment and abandoned all thoughts of returning to its old home.
Since Annie disappeared in early December she was on her own for about a month and that accounts for her emaciated condition. Although her owners reportedly contacted Animal Control and put up "Lost Cat" posters neither tactic was successful.
Not too many owners of lost cats are given a second chance in order to make up for their past negligence but thanks to the compassion of Cohen and the Good Samaritan that is not the case with Annie's owners. Hopefully, this time around they will keep a closer eye on her and make sure than nothing bad ever happens to her again. Because of her advanced years, she deserves at least that much.
Furthermore, it is axiomatic that cats cannot survive in cold weather without shelter anymore than humans. For example, on February 16, 2007 a two-year-old cat named Roo from Lower Windsor Township in Pennsylvania was discovered with his front paws frozen to the side of a road.
Having been run down by a hit-and-run driver, blood from his injuries had frozen his legs to the ice. Notified by another Good Samaritan, the SPCA poured warm water over his legs in order to free him. (See photo of him and the SPCA's Melissa Smith above on the right.)
Although he thankfully survived the criminal conduct of his attacker as well as the cold and ice, his right front paw had to be amputated. (See Cat Defender post of March 5, 2007 entitled "Run Down by a Motorist and Frozen to the Ice by His Own Blood, Cat Named Roo Is Saved by a Caring Woman.")
In addition to motorists who make a sport out of running down cats, some individuals like to mutilate them and then stand back and watch as the elements finish the job for them. That was the predicament that a twelve-week-old kitten named Chopper from Chatham-Kent in southwest Ontario found himself in after an assailant divested him of his fur in November of 2008.
Fortunately, he was discovered by an area resident who took him to the Ontario SPCA (OSPCA) where he received the prompt medical attention that he needed. (See photo directly above of him and the OSPCA's Kelly Spero.)
He received an added bonus when the OSPCA was able to place him in a permanent home. (See Cat Defender post of December 9, 2008 entitled "Shaven from Head to Tail and Left to Freeze to Death in the Ontario Cold, Chopper Is Saved at the Last Minute.")
In conclusion, anyone who is in a position to help a homeless cat make it through the winter is strongly urged to open up either his or her heart and do so. Crawl spaces underneath houses, outdoor sheds, barns, and makeshift shelters often mean the difference between survival and death by hypothermia. Meat and milk also are desperately needed.
Photos: The Sun Chronicle (Annie), Bill Bowden of the York Daily Record (Roo and Smith), and Erica Bajer of The Chatham Daily News (Chopper and Spero).