CHICAGO — A kitten rescued from an Uptown sewer pipe has found a new home with the people who saved him.
The mischievous cat got a fitting name, too: Piper.
The day-long rescue happened last month after Baran Balkan saw a cat looking down a drain in his condo building’s shared deck, Balkan said. Balkan went outside and heard the cat’s kitten crying from inside the pipe.
Balkan and his husband, Tony Forbes, spent the next 10-½ hours trying to rescue the kitten, with Forbes calling off work to focus on the crisis. They crafted a makeshift net and lowered it into the pipe, but that didn’t work. A neighbor, Frank, used a saw to cut the pipe, but they still couldn’t reach the kitten.
“They’re defenseless, amazing little creatures with emotion and so much unending and nonjudgmental love,” Forbes said. “We just hated to see him suffer. Just the thought of not being able to rescue him was heartbreaking.”
The two turned to social media to ask for advice from friends and put in calls to 311, plumbers, Chicago Cat Rescue and the Fire Department. Firefighters tried to help but, after several hours, couldn’t get to the kitten.
“This whole time we’re hearing its cries, which are just heartbreaking,” Forbes said.
Video of the rescue:
It was J. Blanton Plumbing that ended up saving the day: The plumbers sent a camera into the sewer system, allowing them to find which pipe the kitten was in. The plumbers also discovered the building had a broken pipe — which, as they explained to the condo residents, meant they could rescue the kitten and fix the pipe at the same time.
The condo association held an emergency meeting, even calling their out-of-town president, and approved the fix.
“It was easy for us to convince our neighbors the next step would be … to chip a giant hole out of the concrete basement floor and take out a section of pipe, hopefully providing a way for Piper to find his way out,” Forbes said.
It was the group’s last-ditch effort to save the kitten. They were told the building had to flush its pipes the next morning, Forbes said, and the kitten wouldn’t be able to survive that.
“It wasn’t five minutes after that statement was made that we heard the proclamation, ‘We found the cat!’ and these guys had actually pulled Piper out,” Forbes said.
Balkan and Forbes took the kitten to a pet hospital to get checked out, and it was while traveling to the vet that they decided to keep him.
“He already found his forever home right there and then,” Balkan said.
The couple already have a dog, Ivy, and a cat named Kitty Purry. And the help they received from Chicago Cat Rescue during Piper’s ordeal inspired them to go “into the cat-catching business,” Forbes said.
So far, they’ve caught one of Piper’s siblings and two older kittens from a previous litter Piper’s mom had. They still need to catch Piper’s mom, who they plan to spay and release, and one more kitten. Chicago Cat Rescue is fostering the kittens while looking for permanent homes for them.
And Piper’s in good shape — as are the building pipes the plumbers had to destroy and repair to get to him, the couple said.
“He tugged our heartstrings all day with those cries. There was so much effort and just so much emotion that we had attached to the experience,” Forbes said. “We had to provide him a home, especially after having such a tumultuous start.”
Do stories like this matter to you? Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.