Cat survives 13-m drainpipe drop, wins oddest pet insurance claim of the year

Rafa, who has made a full recovery, has received 14th annual Hambone Award

After braving a 45-foot drop down a water-filled drainpipe, a Siberian-mix cat has taken the top honor at this year’s Hambone Awards, presented by Nationwide. Photo courtesy Nationwide
Rafa, the winner of the 14th annual Hambone Award.
Photo courtesy Nationwide

After braving a 13.7-m (45-foot) drop down a water-filled drainpipe, a Siberian-mix cat has taken the top honour at this year’s Hambone Awards, presented by Nationwide.

When Seattle-native Rafa did not come home for dinner one night, his owners knew something was wrong. Following a search of the neighbourhood, Rafa’s family heard meows coming from a sewer grate and soon realized the cat was trapped in a drainpipe. With a storm approaching, they knew the situation was critical and called for back-up.

Soon enough, with the help of the fire department, animal rescue, Seattle Public Utilities, plumbers, and several neighbours, Rafa was extracted from the pipe, where he had been stuck sitting in neck-high icy water. The cat was examined by a veterinarian and treated for severe hypothermia and other complications before spending a week in the ICU.

Fortunately, Rafa made a full recovery.

“The love of animals is one thing that seems to unite us, and that worked to Rafa’s benefit,” says Nationwide’s chief veterinary officer, Jules Benson, BVSc., MRCVS. “Neighbours, city agencies, private companies—they all came together to get Rafa out of a dangerous situation, and then his veterinary team got him back to health. What a great team effort for a beloved pet!”

Rafa and his family have received a Hambone trophy, a $1000 gift card, and a $1000 donation in their name to a pet charity of their choice.

Two other finalists have also received $500 gift cards a $500 donation in their names. They are:

  • Russell, a mixed-breed dog from Granada Hills, Calif., who cracked several front teeth after running into a concrete patio step while enroute to greet his human sister; and
  • Rex, a Shih Tzu from Livonia, Mich., who swallowed a wishbone.

All nominated pets made full recoveries.

Established in 2009, the Hambone Awards were named in honour of a dog that once ate an entire Thanksgiving ham. Past winners include Ellie, a Labrador retriever who gobbled up a beehive and its thousands of inhabitants; Lulu, a hungry bulldog who swallowed 15 baby pacifiers, a bottle cap, and a piece of a basketball; and Ziva and Zeus, two German shepherds who went missing for 22 days in an abandoned missile silo.

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