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FINDLAY, OH (Toledo News Now) -
A dramatic rescue effort that spanned more than 18 hours had a happy ending Friday when an elderly cat was safely pulled from a drainage pipe in Findlay.
The cat, likely trying to find a warm place to sleep during this week's brutally cold temperatures, ice and snow, found himself stuck inside a downspout outside Donnell Middle School. Vets later said the male cat is between 12 and 14 years old, and has likely been on his own for a while, with scars from being on the street.
The downspout descends from the roof of the school below ground about 4 feet, and then turns horizontally and runs about 50 feet to the street. The cat, later named Piper, was stuck at the turn near the foundation of the building, a few feet below ground.
Unable to crawl out of the pipe, the cat began to cry out for help.
It's unclear how long piper was stuck, but his cries were heard by a woman who lives near the school sometime Wednesday evening.
Susan Orians says she heard Piper meowing while calling for her cat. She says she following the meowing across the street to Donnell Middle School, where she discovered the sound was coming from inside a downspout on the outside of the building.
"The poor animal was howling, it would get louder when you called for it," said Orians.
Heartbroken for the trapped animal, Orians made a few phone calls and got Donnell's principal and animal control officers on the scene. She says they worked to see if they could cut the pipe, but later left the school. That's when Susan contacted Toledo News Now and sent us video of the cat responding to her by meowing from inside the pipe.
We posted the video to our Facebook page Thursday afternoon, and nearly 1,500 viewers shared it. A few hours later school officials, concerned citizens and workers with the Hancock County Humane Society converged on the school and began working to save the cat.
Initially, rescuers tried to pull the cat to safety by lowering a towel dipped in tuna into the drainage pipe. After a few hours a camera was lowered into the pipe, revealing the Piper was too large to be pulled up through the opening.
Toledo News Now's Jennifer Steck was live in Findlay throughout the evening Thursday, providing updates on the rescue effort. Dozens of people reached out on our Facebook page asking for updates and showing their support for the rescue mission. An account titled "Stuck Findlay Cat" even popped up on Twitter during the ordeal.
Workers suspended the rescue operation around 8:30 p.m. Thursday, but returned early Friday morning. After spending several hours digging out the buried portion of the pipe, workers cut another hole in the downspout and got to the cat.
Bystanders cheered as Hancock County Humane Society works pulled the cat from the pipe using a net just after 10 a.m. Friday. The cat was loaded into a cage and taken to the Findlay Animal Hospital to be checked out.
Veterinarians say a cat's normal body temperature is 101 degrees. When Piper got to the Findlay Animal Hospital, his body temperature had dropped to 95 degrees.
For now, Piper is recovering in at the Findlay Animal Hospital, he has not yet been adopted. A veterinarian who treated him says it will take a special person to give him the care he needs because he has several medical issues, however caretakers hope someone steps forward after seeing his story and gives him a loving forever home.