When the Missoula, Mont., Fire Department arrived at the scene of a burning home in the lower Rattlesnake Valley last month, they didn’t find any people at home. But as they broke in to knock down the flames, they did see pets.
Their first rescue was a tiny gray kitten, who lay limp and struggling to cope with the cloud of smoke enveloping the house.
Firefighter Brett Cunniff gently picked up the little tabby and carried it outside to the fresh air. “He wasn’t breathing too well, so I put some oxygen on him,” Cunniff said.
Soon the kitten was cradled in the arms of EMT Paige Ostanhowski, who sat in the back of an ambulance and held an oxygen mask to its minute muzzle as its nose returned to its healthy pink shade.
The kitten was taken to a local veterinary hospital, where the staff immediately began working to save her life.
Vet tech Char Ross says the kitten is probably 4 to 6 weeks old. Her recovery is well underway, and when reporters went to visit the tiny feline, she was enjoying a meal of canned food. “She’s doing really good,” Ross said.
Understandably, the kitten has some emotional scars from her near-death experience. “She’s a little scared. Anything that crinkles or sounds like fire, she runs into her box,” Ross said.
But the little survivor is definitely getting the star treatment. “Animal Control has checked on her several times. So have the paramedics and the EMTs,” said technician Char Ross.
Mary Johnson of Missoula Animal Control said she spoke with the displaced homeowner and told her she could pick up the kitten whenever she was ready.
“She’s got a lot on her plate right now,” Johnson said.
An adult cat, who was on the roof when the fire broke out, leapt to safety. An adult female cat, two other kittens and a pet rat perished, while two other cats remained unaccounted for.