Trapped cat survives between floor & ceiling for 11 days

The Star

By Carys Mills

Nigel the Wonder Cat

He's Nigel the Wonder Cat now.

Trapped for 11 days between a floor and ceiling after bathroom renovations went awry, Nigel was eventually rescued from the innards of a Toronto apartment by his tail.

Coaxing the black cat out required several holes to be cut into the apartment walls and careful placement of food and water that were touched while no one was looking.

"It was the most gruelling experience of my whole life," said Nigel's teary owner, Kathy Howells, in her York Mills Rd. apartment.

She and her partner, Rob Nunner, went to see relatives in North Bay in November, she said, while extensive bathroom renovations were done, including ripping out the tub.

A neighbour watched their cats, coming in every day to feed energetic 6-year-old Nigel and Lily, a large tabby. Early one morning, the cat sitter called, saying Nigel was missing.

"I cried all the way home," said Howells, 61. "You think of all those terrible stories of what people can do to animals."

It turned out that Nigel, now referred to by his owners as The Wonder Cat, was trapped just below their feet. About a week after his disappearance, when Howells had already searched extensively and put up missing posters, Melissa Smith heard scratching,

"I heard as if an animal was climbing up the wall," said Smith, who lives directly below Howells. "We put two and two together."

A theory emerged that Nigel scurried into the innards of the apartment, likely when the tub or floor was ripped out and no one was looking.

Howells called AAA Gates' Wildlife Control. Owner Brad Gates said he gets about 10 similar calls every year in the GTA.

"For some unknown reason, cats like to get into nooks and crannies. But before you know it, the drywall is up," Gates said, adding that it could be that mice help cats survive their confinement.

Manager Joel Frost responded, cutting holes in Howells' bathroom and living room walls, trying to get at Nigel. From the bathroom hole, he said, he saw fur and footprints in the space between the concrete floor and drywall ceiling.

Frost tried to lure Nigel out with food and Lily's scent. But freeing the cat took two holes cut in Smith's bathroom and kitchen ceiling, she said. After a contractor cut the holes, Smith said she saw the glint of the spooked cat's eyes.

For days, Howells said, she tried to coax Nigel, reading aloud in Smith's bathroom and leaving food and water. Eleven days after he went missing, Nunner was able to perch on a ladder and pull the cat out by its tail.

"That's when he started fighting . . . it was chaos," said Nunner, who was scratched by the jumpy cat.

Nigel seems back to normal now, and Smith said the holes in her apartment have been taken care of by Berkley Property Management Inc.

But Howells, a property manager herself, still has the two holes in her bathroom and living room.

She said she thinks the company should have helped her get Nigel out or reimburse her now. The company did not return calls Thursday.

© The Star

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