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Siberian mix cat takes an unexpected swim

Meet Rafa, a fearless Siberian mix in Susan and Jose’s pet-packed family.

Chaotic and yet very affectionate by nature, Rafa has grown from a small kitten to become a fixture in the family, which also includes two dogs and a second cat.

“He is nicknamed Puffy,” Susan reports, “because he basically acts like he lives inside of a puffy suit. He isn’t very sensitive. He’s much more of a bulldozer.”

Rafa is known in the family for his adventuresome nature. One evening, this tempestuous temperament inspired him to get outside—and led to a frightful Hambone-nominated plunge into the sewer.

What happened?

Jose and Susan returned home with a couple of pizzas and groceries after running errands. Not long after they arrived, the duo noticed an odd quietness in the house.

“I started preparing the dinner for all the pets,” Susan remembers, “and I noticed that Rafa wasn’t there, and I thought ‘This is really weird.’ [He’s] usually very in-your-face.

“We sure enough saw footage of him very sneakily running out as I was struggling with the pizza boxes coming in through the front door.”

The couple grabbed Rafa’s leash and set out to find him in the neighborhood. After several hours searching, the family went home to rest. Jose woke up around sunrise to restart the search in the daylight and connect with neighbors to help. Susan took the dogs out to help look as well.

“Suddenly, I hear a meowing in the near distance, in response to every time I called his name,” Susan recalls.

Rafa had squeezed himself into a storm drain, and was trapped behind a large, bolted grate.

Having located their beloved kitty, they called for backup. Rafa was trapped about 45 feet down the drainpipe, where he had been sitting neck-deep in icy water for at least six hours. To make matters worse, there was a storm warning issued for later on that day. Fortunately, the couple had numerous helpers, including the fire department, animal rescue, Seattle Public Utilities, Roto-Rooter and no small number of dedicated neighbors.

“The neighbors [brought] all their tools out—we ended up having to bushwhack the hill, which was covered in blackberry bramble,” Susan remembers. “[Roto-Rooter used] technology to locate where he was in the drainpipe, and we then had to dig out the pipe, which was buried about two to three feet in the ground.”

After several hours of digging, planning, and cutting into the pipe, Rafa’s meows were starting to trail off. “So, finally, we created the opening and … Jose pulled him out and just like grabbed him into his arms,” Susan adds.

Rafa was rushed to the veterinary emergency room with severe hypothermia and an unsure prognosis. “[The vet] said that there was less than 50% chance that he would make it,” Susan says. He spent a full week in the ICU at the veterinary hospital across two separate admissions. Fortunately, he pulled through and made a full recovery—and is now more rambunctious and “puffy” than ever.

How Nationwide helped

Rafa’s road to recovery was long and stressful for Susan and Jose. He faced a number of challenges, from hypoglycemia to a mysterious fever to potential neurological damage. Through it all, the couple never had to question the cost of the care he received.

“We are so glad for the insurance, because of not only all the tests, but the total length of hospital time,” Susan says. “He never had a single health problem, and you’re like ‘Oh, do I really need insurance?’ But you never know and if we hadn’t had insurance, we would have had to consider every single measure and weigh it out.

“In this case, we could just be like ‘No, throw the whole kitchen sink at this problem. Do whatever has to be done,’” she adds.

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