Trish works as a care assistant in a busy south County Dublin nursing home. During a recent cold spell, one of her colleagues was doing the daily early morning laundry routine. The first load of clothes had been washed and spun, and were transferred to the industrial-sized tumble drier for the first drying session of the day.

As soon as the machine was turned on, it was obvious that there was something wrong. A loud banging noise could be heard, so the tumble drier was switched off at once. The clothes were checked first, but there was nothing amiss in there.  The back and underside of the machine was then inspected, and something was seen moving in the darkness. The first suspicion was that a rat had crawled into the space beneath the tumble drier, but in better light, a cat could clearly be seen. She’d been badly injured, and she was lying in a pool of blood.

The poor animal was terrified, but she didn’t resist as she was gently lifted out of the works of the machine. Her left front leg had been mangled by the moving parts of the tumble drier, and she was bleeding badly. She was wrapped in a towel and brought immediately to our veterinary clinic for emergency treatment.

It turned out that she was a feral cat who had never been in close contact with humans before. She must have been lurking in the yard outside the back. On that icy cold night, she had found a five-inch-diameter vent on the outside wall of the nursing home. It was about two feet off the ground, just low enough for her to hop into, and wide enough for her to crawl up. The tumble drier must have been recently turned off, so it was pleasantly warm inside. The poor cat had been sleeping when the machine was turned on, so she must have had the most terrifying awakening.

When she arrived at our clinic, xrays confirmed that her left foreleg had been so badly mangled that there was no hope of repair. The only option was amputation, and she’d do fine as a three-legged animal.  There was a question that needed to be answered before she was put through this treatment: as a feral cat, she didn’t have a home to go to, so what would happen to her once she was back to full health? And who would pay for her treatment costs?

Our vet clinic agreed to give heavily discounted treatment, recognising that she was an independent creature rather than someone’s pet. The nursing home staff had a whip-around, and between them they came up with enough money, with some left over to buy the equipment needed for a new home: a cat bed, litter tray and feeding bowls. But where was she to go?

Trish had not had cats before, but she felt sorry for the injured animal. She agreed to take her once she was on the road to a full recovery.

The cat had, of course, been nameless: our vet clinic nurses came up with the name “Tumbles”, and it seemed to suit her, so it’s stuck. She stayed at the vet clinic for a few weeks, allowing the operation site to heal fully. During this time, she became familiar to being in close proximity to humans, and when she went back to Trish’s house, she was much more relaxed with people. She’s settled in well, although Trish is keeping her indoors for the moment.

Meanwhile, the tumble drier vent has now been covered with a grid of metal mesh: no other cats will be following in Tumbles’ footsteps.

TIPS

  • Cats like to find warm spots to sleep during cold weather
  • Vents from engines and machines need to be screened to prevent cats crawling inside
  • Even feral cats can become good pets if they’re given time and plenty of attention