In late June, Stefani Carroll-Kirchoff of Maplewood was distraught when she opened her washing machine to discover her tuxedo cat, Felix, had been stuck inside for a full wash cycle.
"I only turned my back for a few minutes," she says. In that time, Felix crawled into the washer and was locked in for a 45-minute cycle. When Carroll-Kirchoff found him, he was battered and bruised, his lungs waterlogged, and his eyes clouded with chemical burns from the detergent.
"I'm still traumatized," says Carroll-Kirchoff. "It was life-changing."
Felix, a one-year-old Hemingway cat, was rushed to the emergency vet, where doctors placed him in an oxygen chamber to restore his normal breathing rate. He was given an IV and medicine for his eyes. Carroll-Kirchoff's daughter Asha set up a Go Fund Me page to tell Felix's story and offset the cost of his treatment. The campaign raised $15,875, nearly $1,000 over the goal amount.
Carroll-Kirchoff was stunned. "I'm still in shock. I can't believe there are that many good people in this world. [Felix] wouldn't be alive without the support and prayers and good wishes of everyone out there."
Not only is Felix alive, but Carroll-Kirchoff says he's back to his same old self.
"He's doing phenomenally. He's a normal cat, still into mischief. He still greets us at the door every day like always."
Felix's lungs have mostly healed and though his eyes are still cloudy with corneal damage, Carroll-Kirchoff says he can still see well enough to jump around and play with toys. Just last week she found him balancing on top of an open door.
"He's as feisty as ever," she says. "Felix rules the roost around here."
As for the laundry room, it's officially off-limits to cats. Carroll-Kirchoff hopes Felix's story will alert pet owners to the dangers of leaving washers and dryers unattended. She also wants to donate any funds left over from the online fundraiser to charities that assist families with pet emergencies.
"There's no way I can repay what's been done for Felix," she says. "I'm just so grateful to everyone."