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Cat of the Day
Today's Cat of the Day
Phoenix the Domestic Shorthair, the Cat of the Day
Name: Phoenix
Age: Fourteen years old
Gender: Male
Kind: Domestic shorthair
Home: Ottawa, Ontariio, Canada
   It was late September in 2003 and my wife and I were spending the last night of a car-camping holiday at one of our favourite provincial parks near Mattawa, Ontario. At that time of year the park campground was largely empty with only a very few other parties camped there.

     After picking out and setting up our site in the late afternoon, we decided that before starting dinner we would go for a brisk hour-long walk along one of our favourite trails in the park. As we crossed the campground towards the beginning of the trail, we passed by a number of other unoccupied sites. Each of the sites in the park - as is the case in many of Ontario"s provincial parks - have a fire ring which consists of a heavy metal circular enclosure about 30 inches in diameter and about a foot high. The rings have four holes approximately 3 inches in diameter to allow air to circulate and stoke the fire in the centre.

     As we were passing by one of these fire rings, we both noticed what appeared to be a small, motionless cat"s head sticking out through one of theses holes. We both assumed that a cat had gotten trapped in there and died. After a few seconds however, the eyes moved ever so slightly and we realized we were seeing a live cat trapped in a fireplace. We immediately rushed over to see if we could extricate it but to no avail. The cat appeared to be a very young kitten about 6 weeks old. It was inside the ring and had managed to stick its head through one of these holes but, because the head was exactly the same size as the hole, had been unable to retract it and escape. We realized immediately that the kitten"s ears were the problem; they folded backward to allow the head to enter through the opening but prevented the head from retracting out of the hole.

     We spent the next few minutes unsuccessfully trying various techniques to extract the kitten"s head from the fire ring - including smearing it"s head with butter to "ease" it out. Finally, we realized that if we pinned the ears back and twisted the head in just a certain way we might be able to get it unstuck. And it worked!

     We carried the kitten - which was now complete covered in butter, dirt and fireplace soot - back to our site, washed it off as best we could and gave it a little water to drink. It was obviously very thirsty leading us to believe that it had been stuck there for more than a few hours. While my wife looked after it, I went to see the park warden to find out if anyone had reported a lost kitten and also to ask if they had any kind of enclosure in which we could keep it overnight before turning it in to the closest humane society the next morning. The warden indicated that there had been no lost pet reports and offered us overnight use of a cage they use to trap small animals. We made up a small litter box using an empty grocery box and some sand from the site, and fed it some more water and some food. It started purring and appeared quick happy to be with us.

     And so the kitten spent the night with us in the cage in our van. That night a violent wind and rain storm came up (the remnant of a hurricane that had come up the east coast of the US). But the three of us were high and dry in our van. There is no question that if we had not found and extracted this young animal it would have perished overnight from exposure or predation by other animals in the park.

     The next morning I did a quick round of the campground to see if anywhere had lost a kitten but none of the very few campers there indicated that they had. We returned the cage to the park warden and set out to turn the kitten in to the closet humane society. As we were leaving the park, my wife tossed out the notion that maybe we should take it back to Ottawa with us and drop it off at the humane society there.

     As were driving home, the notion of actually keeping this kitten gradually began to grow on us. Upon arriving in Ottawa, we immediately called our local vet to see if we could bring it in right away to have it"s health checked out. They had an opening, we took it in and the kitten which turned out to be male passed the physical with flying colours. All the staff at the vet office immediately fell in love with this little creature and one of the technicians suggested that maybe we should name him Phoenix - in recognition of the fact that he had risen from the ashes of that fire ring. And thus Phoenix came to live with us.

     Phoenix (who is also affectionately known as the "Feenster," the "boy" and the "Mattawa boy") is now 14 years old and has been the most engaging and adorable of the seven cats we"ve owned over the years we"ve been married. As you can see from the photos, he has a stubby tail which the vet believed was the result of a birth defect, not an injury. We suspect he was the runt of a litter of cats and was probably unwanted and dropped off at the campground to fend for himself.

Phoenix the Domestic Shorthair, the Cat of the Day Phoenix the Domestic Shorthair, the Cat of the Day Phoenix the Domestic Shorthair, the Cat of the Day Phoenix the Domestic Shorthair, the Cat of the Day

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