“He was trying to gasp for air,” said Adam Justus, assistant chief of the Henderson County Rescue Squad. “Soot was coming out of its mouth and nose.”
Two months ago, Kitty might not have survived. On March 5, however, Henderson County Rescue Squad members used a pet oxygen mask they had recently received through Invisible Fence's Project Breathe program.
The mask kept Kitty breathing as an Animal Control officer drove Justus, with Kitty in his lap, to Western Carolina Regional Animal Hospital in Flat Rock.
“He was critical,” Dr. Michelle Foote said. “I didn't think he would live.”
Kitty's condition greatly improved after 24 hours at the animal hospital.
“There should not be any further problems,” Foote said. “His lungs sound much better and he is expected to make a full recovery.”
The Invisible Fence company provides kits to first responders through its Pet Oxygen Mask Donation Program. The company says on its website that an estimated 40,000 to 150,000 pets die each year in fires, most succumbing to smoke inhalation, and that emergency responders in most states are not equipped with specially designed pet oxygen masks. The kits include a small, medium and large mask.
The company's goal is to ensure that every fire department and rescue unit is equipped with the masks, and has donated more than 10,000 masks to fire stations throughout the U.S. and Canada thanks in part to public donations.
Kitty's ordeal began at about 10 a.m. when a grease fire got out of control as Gloria Elasky, 82, cooked breakfast at her Hendersonville home. The house sustained major smoke and heat damage.
Although she and her husband, 87-year-old Dan Elasky, escaped, Kitty was still inside.
“I thought I would never see my cat,” Gloria Elasky said.
But Blue Ridge Fire and Rescue firefighters found Kitty and rushed the cat to safety.
On Thursday, the Elaskys visited Kitty at the animal hospital, where he's being boarded until the couple move into temporary housing.
“He is coming right along,” Gloria Elasky said.
The hospital's staff has grown fond of the resilient young cat.
“We are going to miss him,” Foote said.
Anyone interested in contributing to a fund to help pay Kitty's medical bills can contact Western Carolina Regional Animal Hospital at 828-697-7767 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 828-697-7767 end_of_the_skype_highlighting or visit www.wcrah.com.
Visit www.invisiblefence.com/Giving-Back/Project-Breathe for more information on Project Breathe.