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Pet safety tip about a common household danger

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Barnie and the dryer - by Janet Tobiassen Crosby DVM

Barnie and the dryer

by Janet Tobiassen Crosby DVM
Cats are known for wanting to seek out warm and cozy places to curl up in. Unknown to many people, the clothes dryer is one of those places, often ending up in injury or death. I have seen this firsthand in practice, and it is heartbreaking. It is always an unknown mistake by busy people doing laundry. The shock, grief and guilt are horrible.

I warn people whenever I can about this very real danger. Despite my best efforts, this happened in my house.

Barnie the Cat
I write often about my rescued barn cat Barnie and the trouble he gets into on my personal blog. I started from the day I found him - a matted skinny mess, and have fun writing about his antics as a house cat.

Here's what happened
Yesterday was a typically busy day. Coming home in the evening with kids, cats, and Sophie the dog all joining in a chorus of noise, I decided to continue with the laundry tasks started that morning. The dryer was cold, it hadn't run for 8 hours. I transferred the clothes from the washer to the dryer (the machines sit side by side) and turned the dryer on.

The dryer did sound a little odd, but honestly, nothing that unusual. Similar to when a shoe is in with the wash. It was a large load of heavy towels and jeans, and I ignored that niggling feeling that something was not quite right.

I should point out that Barnie can't meow. He has a hoarse whisper and that is it. He was about 9 months old when I found him, so I don't know if it was an infection, injury, or just what happened in his kittenhood. He is fine now otherwise.

Because of this, or maybe just to put my mind at ease, I opened up the dryer. Out tumbled (for lack of a better word) Barnie. He looked a little confused and his heart was racing with fright. Thank goodness the heat had not come on yet, and it had only been a few seconds. How much time - 10 seconds? 20 seconds? I am not sure.

Thankfully, a happy ending
We are lucky. Very lucky. Barnie's story has a happy ending. He is totally and completely fine. A phone call, knock at the door, or any one of the many of distractions of daily life could have easily called me away from the dryer. That would have completely changed this outcome. The guilt would have been overwhelming. The worst thing we had to deal with was cat urine on the clothes.

So I use this "opportunity" to warn you about this very real danger for pets, especially cats. In our case, the dryer was not warm and cozy. It was completely cold. But Barnie, like so many cats, can't resist a dark cubby hole to climb into and explore. It didn't help that it was a load of dark clothes and he blended right in.

Oh the irony
The fact that I was up against a deadline writing about, of all topics, pet safety tips is not lost on me. Household pet safety tips, at that. Pets are unpredictable. Even when you think you have pet-proofed and have a safe pet home.

This is not an isolated incident
I saw a cat, rushed in as an emergency, after being found in the dryer. He was dead on arrival. I checked the Veterinary Information Network, a private board for veterinarians, and Barnie's case is only unusual in that he was rescued so quickly and without any injury. Many cats suffer horrible hyperthermia (elevated body temperature), burns and death.

Word to the wise
Please check your dryer and washer before turning them on. It only takes one sneaky minute for your cat to hop in.

Photo: Barnie and the dryer - by Janet Tobiassen Crosby DVM

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