Tiki Bear the cat used up several of her nine lives Tuesday when she was trapped inside her owners' New Hampshire home during a fire.
Firefighters found the 17-year-old cat in the basement of the historic Portsmouth, N.H., home, brought the animal out and put a tiny oxygen mask to her face, helping her to breathe again. Police transported her to a veterinary emergency center, where she was placed in intensive care.
David Adams and his wife, Deborah, both 61, were away at work when the fire started shortly before midday Tuesday in their home, which was built in 1742. A neighbor noticed and called 911. That same neighbor, whom Adams described as a pet lover who knew a cat was in the house, actually tried to save Tiki Bear.
The neighbor "went into the burning building looking for the cat. As far as I know, he was forced out. He girded himself up and went back in again," until firefighters dragged him out of the house and forced him to stay away.
"He was going to kill himself and he told them, before they dragged him off the property, he told them that there was a cat in there," Adams said.
Firefighters searched the house. Adams arrived in time to witness their efforts to save his house, and he saw firefighters bring the gray cat outside and administer aid to her.
"I was probably more focused on the fire and the fact that my house was burning, and I then saw the cat and clearly I was so pleased and it made me feel a little choked up that the firemen would take the time and the trouble and the peril to be in a burning building and look for my little house cat," he said. "As far as the emotions of it, it's part of what we're going to cling to as our beginning of our recovery, because we're still … looking at a pretty heavy loss, but not the cat, but not the cat," he said.
Adams' daughter, Lexi, grew up with Tiki Bear before moving to Brooklyn, N.Y. She started a Facebook page to provide updates on the cat's condition and to accept donations to help defray the costs of veterinary care for the pet. People from all across the country had donated $700 as of Wednesday evening, she said.
The cost of the cat's care was an estimated $2,500 Wednesday, and the family didn't know how much longer she would need to remain hospitalized, Lexi Adams added.
The cat wasn't responding well Tuesday night, and Lexi Adams said she feared her childhood pet wouldn't make it through to the next day, but Tiki Bear's condition has improved.
The vet's staffers reported Wednesday that Tiki Bear "looked up and expressed, quote, interest in her surroundings, which they were taking as a very good sign and they were able to move her out of the oxygen chamber," Lexi Adams said, adding that the cat "actually ate her first bites of food today [Wednesday] and she purred."
David Adams is grateful for the outpouring of support from his neighbors and friend. He said he believed people could find "far better things to do with their $5? but added that he appreciated their thoughtfulness.
"I don't know what to say other than I'm very grateful. I'm very grateful," he said.
Adams and his wife are staying at a local motel temporarily. A friend has offered to put them up for a couple of months.
Adams, a contractor, said about 50 percent of his house was significantly damaged but the shell, roof and rafters remained sound. He plans to repair the structure.
The cause of the fire was likely the improper disposal of smoking materials in and near a fireplace, Portsmouth Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief Steve Achilles said, according to Seacoastonline.com.