Firefighters usually break out thermal imaging cameras when trying to locate fires hidden in walls.
It turns out that equipment is also useful in finding 20-pound curious cats who find themselves lost in their home’s interior walls.
Dylan the cat, who belongs to Dave and Barb Kromphardt, 3215 Brent Cross, went missing at the end of March after his owners left for a short vacation.
The family, who also have a cat named Owen, was having a new shower installed in its upstairs bathroom while they were away.
Before departing March 22, they left plenty of food and water for the cats. The couple returned about 3 a.m. March 30. Leaving their luggage inside the car, Barb Kromphardt went in to check on the cats.
Owen was in the kitchen waiting at the door to the garage, but Dylan was nowhere to be found.
Barb Kromphardt described Dylan as the most “dog-like” cat she has ever had. When she calls, he generally heads her direction.
They could hear Dylan meowing but couldn’t figure out where he was.
A frantic search ensued throughout the house. Kromphardt opened cabinets, checked bedrooms. She even searched outside. She could hear Dylan crying but couldn’t find him.
“Then I was sitting on the stairs, and I could hear him overhead,” she said.
The couple went upstairs to their newly installed shower and made a series of three holes in the wall nearby to see if Dylan would head in their direction, thinking that might be the area where he ventured into the wall.
After pulling a downstairs ceiling fan out and trying another hole there, the couple called the Columbus Fire Department and asked emergency personnel to bring a thermal imaging camera.
Barb Kromphardt believed the large cat would have enough warmth to trigger a reading — and identify where he was in the ceiling.
Dylan could have been in the ceiling for about 48 hours without food or water, the couple said, based on the timeline of when a wall could have been open for the renovations. Dylan didn’t seem to be making as much noise as when the search began, which worried the couple, which is why they turned to the fire department for help.
Columbus Fire Department Lt. Steve Ahrmann, of Engine 4, arrived at 4:42 a.m. with firefighters Bob Jordan and Ben Spencer. They went to work with the imaging camera.
Sure enough, a 20-pound cat has a heat signature. The firefighters quickly located Dylan in the ceiling of the home’s entryway hallway. Another hole was cut, but the hallway beams were too close together for Dylan to get out.
Dylan did helpfully stick his paw through the hole for the firefighters.
Everyone trooped to the kitchen, where a 6- by 8-inch hole was cut in the ceiling. Ahrmann climbed a ladder with cat food and attempted to call Dylan, who was having none of it.
The firefighters, tongue in cheek, offered to bring the ceiling down with their hooks, but the Kromphardts declined. They already had more than enough holes in ceilings and walls.
Barb Kromphardt then climbed the ladder with the cat food, and Dylan decided that might be OK. But he only traveled far enough for Barb Kromphardt to grab his hind legs. Ahrmann helped her maneuver the large cat out of the ceiling.
The firefighters hung around for a bit, just to make sure Dylan was no worse for wear from his ceiling adventure.
“They were so funny,” Barb Kromphardt said of the firefighters. “I didn’t want to keep them, but they stayed until we had him out and they knew everyone was OK.”
Ahrmann, who is a cat owner himself, admits it’s his first cat rescue that didn’t involve a call about a feline climbing a tree and refusing to come down.
“We don’t get too many of these,” he said of Dylan’s predicament.
After getting stuck inside the home’s inner walls and the early morning excitement of his rescue, Dylan has returned to his preferred activity — long naps on the family couch.