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Last year, Chris and Sheena Villarraga of Naples, Fla., rescued a tiny 6-week-old kitten. As avid fans of the Iron Man series, they settled on the name Stark, after the main character Tony Stark. The rambunctious kitty has lived up to his name and proven his intelligence by learning how to open doors, and has shown his rebelliousness by destroying several phone and computer chargers. However, Stark took his character a little too far after he attempted to fly off his cat tree and ended up hanging by his tail from a set of window blinds. Stark’s dangerous dangle and relieving recovery have earned him the title of August’s “Most Unusual Claim of the Month” by Nationwide, the nation’s first and largest provider of pet health insurance.
On the morning of Stark’s feline flight, Chris and Sheena, who are both in the nursing field, were trying to enjoy extra sleep on a rare shared day off. Stark disagreed with the newlyweds’ plan, and interrupted their slumber in hopes of playtime.
“We were planning to take Stark to his annual wellness visit later that day,” said Sheena. “He was really hyper that morning so we put him in his room to play with his toys, while we got a little extra sleep. Most cats don’t have their own room, but we don’t have children yet so Stark is spoiled.”
When Sheena returned to bed, she could hear Stark running around and playing as he normally does, but suddenly she heard a loud crash. The couple raced to Stark’s room, which is appropriately Iron Man themed, and found the frantic feline hanging from the window blinds by his tail. Stark had launched off his fortress style cat tree and become entangled in the cords. The couple rushed to free Stark, but the cords had wrapped a knot around his tail.
“The knot was so tight that it pulled out a big chunk of his hair,” said Sheena. “When we finally got him free, we knew he wasn’t right. His tail was hanging awkwardly and he looked uncomfortable. It broke my heart to see my baby like that.”
Sheena and Chris quickly loaded Stark into the car and rushed him to Oasis Animal Hospital in Naples. The veterinary team sedated the mortified Maine Coon mix to calm him down and examined his tail. They feared he may have suffered nerve damage which could possibly require amputation. The team informed the Villarragas that they would need time to run X-rays and extensive tests, and recommended the couple leave to clear their minds.
“The wait was torturous,” said Sheena. “They told us to go get something to eat until they knew more, but we had no appetite. All we cared about was Stark. Knowing that he was in so much pain brought me to tears.”
Soon after leaving, the veterinary office called with great news. Stark’s tail showed no signs of a break or nerve damage. He did have extensive tissue damage, but it would not require amputation or surgery.
After a few weeks, Stark was back to his playful ways. The window blinds have since been removed, and Stark was left with an indent in his tail as a reminder to refrain from flying. Chris and Sheena are relieved that the injury wasn’t too serious and are thankful for the support they received from Nationwide through the process.
“We’re just happy that Stark is fully healed,” said Sheena. “We purchased pet insurance from Nationwide for incidents just like this. We’ve seen first-hand how expensive pet injuries can be and we never want to be faced with a difficult decision because of finances. We’re grateful to have Nationwide.”