Why I Should Never Go on Vacation

I’ve had such a consistent run of a combination of non-vacations (as in working during my vacation; in 2009, for instance, I had to continue pretty much full on with my drafting of ECONNED while on a visit to Europe) and disasters during vacation to make me leery of the proposition, even when I desperately need a break.

This holiday has proven to be no exception. I got back today. One of my cats did not greet me at the door. He’s trapped behind a 10 foot tall bookcase. There is only about a 3 inch gap between it and the wall, but there is a little space below its bottom shelf. This cat is at least 11 pounds. I have no idea how he could possibly have squeezed himself in.

He got himself behind it once before when he was panicked by a party, but he managed to get himself out after a few hours. He’s fatter now and seems unable to execute the departure maneuver, since he has been there at least a day and has been making diligent efforts from time to time since I’ve been back (the weekend cat sitter was freaked out yesterday at not seeing him out and about as usual).

The bookcase is extremely solidly built, with a base that is 8 feet long. The upper shelves are actually 2 side by side components, each firmly cabled to the wall. I’m at a loss to figure out how the guy who installed them 18 years ago did it, and I don’t see any easy way to get them moved forward that won’t do at least one of 1. Damage the wall 2. Damage the floor or 3. Damage the bookcase AND 4. Take a minimum of four people, which is more than the number of workmen on my building’s staff (as in I don’t know how to round up enough sturdy guys who have some mechanical skills to get this done. A friend who knows some of the guys at the neighboring buildings already asked around, and they aren’t up for working in another building. In fairness, it may be a union or building liability insurance issue).

The best option in theory would be to cut open a space over where the cat is, but that section of wood is so thick that I’m not sure even a good drill can do it (plus you’ve got high odds of hurting the cat, who would be panicked by the noise). Cutting open the back is more straightforward (the wood is thinner, plus it is not exactly where the cat is) but I’m not sure the cat could worm himself around to escape that way (as in it’s probably as tight a squeeze as getting back out the way he came in, and he’s not able to do that). The other option (if the super can figure out how to do it) would be to remove a section of baseboard from the wall. 2 inches beyond the end of the bookcase and 4 inches behind would probably give him just enough extra width on the path he came in on for him to get out.

Since I have rung around and can’t locate anyone with tools and a good pair of arms to help today, the cat is going to spend another night back there. I’m not happy about that, but cats can get by a very long time with no food or water, and he does seem to be OK save for being really upset. My super has been alerted and will come up tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed. Otherwise, I have to find a way surgically destroy a piece of furniture and hope no cats are hurt in the process.

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  1. 2laneIA

    We had a cat who got stuck way up in a tree for 10 days. We eventually got her down. She had nothing to eat and only maybe dew or snow to drink, and lived another seven years. Just saying.

  2. optimader

    1.) Buy a gerbil water bottle, oversize-dimension issue is self resolving w/ time.

    2.) go buy a skil jigsaw and cut a 9″ dia hole on self 1 backboard. 10 minute job. Hire “someone” to flash in the 3″ Mind the Gap w/ some nice wood trim (don’t forget the top where he fell in from while looking at the mouse)

    4.) Pullout a pad of quadrille paper and draw a 0 to full life expectancy timeline. Red hash mark where your at.

    5.)Pour a nice glass of wine and sit down on the floor next to the bookcase w/ the pad and ask your kat if there is any reason why You Shouldn’t Always be on Vacation?

      1. Optimader

        Legal removed 3.) based on an opinion that it involves one or more activites that are are currently illegal in the US

  3. peace

    Can you reach in from the side, grab the cat’s scruff behind the neck, and lift or pull the cat out?

    Can you remove all the books from the 2nd or third shelf from the bottom and use a drill and saw to make a large hole above the cat? Then pull the cat out. Then hide the hole with books (or replace and caulk the removed shelf backing).

    1. tomk

      Wish I could help but I’m in Maine. Sounds like it might be a job for an oscillating saw, sometimes known as a multitool. They’ll make fine cuts in awkward spaces that a jigsaw or reciprocating saw (sawzall) might not get into. I only got one a few months ago and it’s one of those tools that I never knew i needed but I use it all the time now and it makes a lot of tasks easier.

      1. ex-PFC Chuck

        “Sounds like it might be a job for an oscillating saw . . “

        Just what I was thinking when I read the post. It will take a while since they don’t cut fast and they can be noisy but it will minimize the physical risk to the cat, if not the emotional. I have a Rockwell one and have used it quite a bit. If I didn’t live 1K miles away I’d offer to help.

        1. ex-PFC Chuck

          Not a Sawzall. With that you’d first have to drill a hole then insert the Sawzall blade with the power off before turning it on and beginning to cut. The blade would “stab” back and forth into the space where the cat is trapped and if she’s there it will wound her. Depending on which blade type is used it will likely penetrate through at least and inch and perhaps several.

          Check out this video of the Rockwell SoniCrafter. The blade moves from side to side only about a quarter of an inch. It will not penetrate through into the cat space until at the very end of the cut, and a careful user can be careful as he or she approaches that point and stop pressing it forward immediately. It will take longer than a sawzall but greatly reduces the risk of injury to the cat. Check out this video, about 30 seconds in.

          There are other brands of similar saws out there. IIRC, Dremel has one.

          1. ex-PFC Chuck

            I’m not knocking Milwaukee’s Sawzall and similar products. I have one of those as well and they’re a great and flexible tool. Just not in this situation.

          2. anon y'mouse

            you boys, and all your sharp, stabby toys.

            my concern would be about cutting the cat as well.

            manly men (or women, heck—oh, Serena! where are you?) tilt the case out forward till the back “legs” are up off the ground.

            or try to slide the case slowly forward and see if the cat has room to come out on their own.

            or, and this would be the mightiest-man of all (unless you can get a car jack for it) life the case up off the ground entirely and have someone ready to nab the cat.

            1. Yonatan

              Oscillating saws are used in brain surgery to cut through the bone of the skull without damaging the brain. They are also used for cutting through plaster casts once a fracture has healed.

    2. anon y'mouse

      yeah, drag him out. get one of those animal control loop & pole contraptions and grab him.

      it might sound cruel and terrifying, but as long as he won’t be damaged by it…

      is he between the wall and the bookcase, or the floor? it sounds like he’s gone behind and then wedged himself under it. or can you really see him sitting there from the side view? hard to visualize.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        No, I don’t think I’ve given an adequate picture of the problem.

        1. The cat is highly motivated to get out. He’s been intermittently struggling with some determination to get out. So this is not matter of him hiding, it’s that he can’t squeeze back out. The path out is not the same as the path in. He probably can’t flatten himself enough or get enough of a purchase.

        2. There is no way I can pull him out without breaking many of his bones. He can’t get both front legs and his head out. Plus when I try reaching for him, he goes underneath where I can’t get to him.

        3. There is really no space between the bookcase and the wall. 3-4 inches max. He managed to squeeze past the end of the bookcase and find a space underneath the bottom shelf and the floor. The problem is that the wood underneath that bottom shelf is VERY substantial, and I’m not sure how we could cut through it (and the attempt will also freak out and maybe hurt the cat). But I see readers have some suggestions on the tool front, and I may have to make a Home Depot run if the super thinks one of them might be up to the task.

        1. Lambert Strether

          There seems to be some convergence on the idea of 1) drill a hole and 2) get a saw in the “hole” and cut out a door for the cat.

          I’m thinking somebody really artful with wood and tools (a cabinet maker? This is New York, there must be somebody) should be able to keep make the drill and the saw go no deeper than the width of the wood, which would protect the from random blades — or even drill and cut the door (maybe a router not a blade?) leaving say 1/16th of wood undrilled and uncut. Then knock the “door” out with a hammer.

          I like the idea of a door because that mean this will never need to happen again.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              Sadly, the walls are very heavy masonry. No way can you get through them with anything less than a jackhammer.

              The best plan so far seems to be to empty the bookcase and use a long bar (2-3 feet, metal, with a piece of cheap wood against the bookcase to protect it) to create leverage to pivot the base out an inch or two. Firemen should have needed bar if my super doesn’t. I will need to visit them, if I call they’ll rush over with tons of gear and more men than necessary.

              1. alex morfesis

                not to be intrusive or voyeuristic, but it would help to have an actual photo of where the cat got thru and the lower part of the book shelf in question. drilling and sawzall(ing) may not be too brilliant as with old new york buildings having spaghetti for electrical wiring and some old gas light pipes that were never removed and may not be properly capped. A photo might help evaluate any molding which could be dislodged to make another opening somewhere…and if there is something behind the bookcase, closet or wall especially again if there is any molding at ground level which might leave an alternative option for exit. Finally if there are any pocket doors near or around which might allow for some other path for the fluffy feline. photos in this instance would be most helpful.

        2. skippy

          If the cables are not to difficult to remove or cut – possibly only requiring cutting a few in key locations.

          Then all one would have to do is stabilize the top with hand[s and by use of say, a crowbar (wrapped in heavy tape + using wooden or plastic protection to areas that might be damaged in its use). Apply pressure at bottom (where all the dead weight is stored) to slowly move bookshelf away from wall.

          The length of the bookcase would actually help in this case, axis thingy.

          skippy… shoot some photos via email if you can’t get help soon enough. Been there done that w/ MMillion dollar stuff that weighs tens of tons… lol!

          1. direction

            I second skippy’s sentiment on cutting the cables. You can measure the length of your drill bit and then use a couple books to stop the drill from descending beyond the depth of the wooden shelf but the proximity of the noise would probably terrify the cat possibly resulting in injury.

        3. fajensen

          Maybe, if one hangs a bedsheet down the back of the bookcase, the cats claws can grip that and he can pull himself out?

  4. JM

    So is the bookshelf attached to the wall itself? If it is not connected the best option would be to get a hold of a toe jack and just lift one end until room was made to escape. Doing it with only two people may be possible if you can lean the top out enough from the wall to cant enough space at the back while remaining in control/having a brace engaged at each end. Of course you would want to remove as much weight from the shelves to prevent it from tilting over on you and again that depends on it not being affixed to the wall in some manner. If you were up in Boston I would be over in 5 to help sort it out as I have lots of moving and foolish cat experience. Really sorry not to be closer. Thanks for all you do.

    1. peace

      Good idea. Possibly combine this with cutting the cables that attach the bookcase to the wall.

      I’m nearby too but have minimal tools.

  5. skippy

    That’s a pretty severe self inflicted weight loss plan… in response to separation anxiety issues imo.

    skippy… are not vacations the poor persons attempt at the Grand Tour… bias confirmation that there is no place like home? Strange people everywhere thingy~

    1. anon y'mouse

      well, maybe. appreciate what you’ve got a bit better if you’ve had a bad time. but that’s a rather narrow view of travel.

      how about—learn about history. see cultural artifacts that illustrate man’s timeless quest for beauty & knowledge. learn about other people’s, other times and other places. realize that, in many ways, human conceptions of living really ARE about “location, location, location”. learn and borrow, or outright steal, great ideas. challenge misconceptions. become a citizen of the world as a whole, even if just inside your own heart.

      and finally, perhaps—make plans to move, because what’s over there really IS more appealing to you than where you came from.

      1. skippy

        @anon y’mouse.

        What you describe is not what most would consider a vacation, especially the tourist industry and when you say:

        “and finally, perhaps—make plans to move, because what’s over there really IS more appealing to you than where you came from.” – anon y’mouse

        Concur wholeheartedly mr mouse, as that is exactly what I did.

        skippy… when I’ve gone abroad it was the people, floral and fauna with some historical stuff throw in, that made it an learning experience.

        PS a vid on travel: Travel Agent Sketch


  6. Matt

    Option 1: Wait for the cat to become skinny again.

    Option 2: Find someone who can figure out how the book shelves are attached and take them apart. It may be something as simple as lifting/taking the weight off of the top shelves with a lever or jack and shifting the base. Be using blocks between wall and shelves to prevent anything shifting to hurt the cat. Not important how it will be done, just know that it will be done.

    1. peace

      Good idea. If only the upper shelves are cabled to the wall then the bottom of an empty bookcase might be slid away from the wall.

    2. Dirk77

      Option 1 is Winnie the Pooh. I can’t remember how that turned out. Option 2 sounds good and straightforward. I’d come over and do it for you in an hour, but try local help first.

  7. garbagecat

    A housecat can NOT go for more than a couple of days without eating! They’re very susceptible to hepatic lipidosis, which can be fatal. Please please please, for the cat’s sake and yours, do try to round up some able-bodied people tonight and get him out.

  8. craazyman

    that’s one of the many benefits of the Chia Pet.

    You can even talk to them and they’ll ignore you, just like a cat.

    I know you don’t appreciate assignments, but in this case you’re probably the only one who can figure it out.

    Is Serena Williams on steroids? I can’t believe the body on that woman. I can’t believe it. I work out and rip in the gym, and I have testosterone, naturally, but she makes me look like a flabby librarian. What’s up with those biceps of hers? Can she curl 120 pounds? Or is it 130? That’s how fast her serve is, 130 miles per hour. That’s a man’s serve speed. Can anybody imagine Chris Evertt hitting a 130 mph serve? Not even Martina Navratilova could do that. Those were the days, weren’t they? When women’s tennis was looping balls back and forth for hours. Not like today, when even the women are men and the men are, who knows what they are, concoctions of beer and steroids and tattoos.

    This is why there are so many problems in the financial services industry. The women want to be men and the men don’t know what to do, except get as much money as possible any way they can. And then what? They don’t know. Nobody knows. And the people who do know, they don’t have any money.

    1. Bruno Marr

      You would probably look little standing next to Serena. She’s an easy six-footer. While Sharapova, her rival, doesn’t look powerful, at six-foot-two she gets enormous leverage on her shots. Power is the women’s tennis game today.

        1. craazyman

          c’mon Skip. I wouldn’t have a prayer with somebody like Serena. I’m not delusional. Maybe if I was like, Sean Connery in his prime. With his money and his mojo, then maybe, she’d look at me and say “Why not?”. Then if we got married and I had to fix the car I’d say “Honey, the car’s leaking oil and I’ve gotta see what going on? Can you lift up the left front frame while I get underneath with the wrench? Just about 5 minutes would do it.” She could probably manhandle that bookshelf where Yves cat got stuck like a cross-court topspin forehand. That cat would be out in 3 seconds. The hottest girlfriend I ever had was from Nigeria. The Etheopians, now, they’re the hottest. They all work in the pharmacies and drug stores, but you can’t hit on them when you’re picking up xanax. At least I can’t. I’m not that smooth.

    2. ex-PFC Chuck

      A couple of years ago when I was having a beer with a friend who’s a part-time tennis instructor and mentioned that I thought Serena was close to my definition of a hot woman he was incredulous. Whatever. Early in the US Open this year I looked up her bio page up on the USLTA website and it stated her weight as 150 lbs. BS. Not with those thighs and that upper body! The fact that she could be a score or more pounds heavier doesn’t make her less attractive in the least. Her weight, whatever it is, is appropriate for her frame and level of muscleature development.

  9. aletheia33

    can someone simply cut the cables with strong cutters? worry about how to reaffix the book case to the wall (without the 3 inch gap) later. at least this way you haven’t cut into the walls, floor, or bookcase.

    i’ve looked on the internet for ideas for extricating cats from tight spots–they apparently do get behind house walls through small holes and then can’t figure out how to get out and are too freaked out to do anything but hunker down. could not find anything close enough to your situation, but a couple of stories told of the cat’s owner finally using tuna to lure the cat within reach and then just basically grabbing the cat and pulling it out through the small hole in the wall (which may or may not have been cut wider) by dint of sheer persistence and strength. (cat biting hands etc.) just FYI.

  10. David Mills

    Tools shouldn’t be a problem, Home Depot does rentals. You need a small angle grinder to cut through the back of the shelf in front and above the cats current location. You can hide the hole by wall papering all the shelf backs. Don’t forget wine, it will help the process.

  11. Howard Richardson

    Years ago, while repairing a friend’s floor, his cat got into the space between the floor and the ceiling below, the space being a foot wide and 20 feet long.Shining a light down this space revealed two glowing dots about 20 feet away. No enticement would move that cat, until we driller a hole in the floor near where the cat was, and used the reversed air flow of a vacuum cleaner to blow a dusted freaked out kitty back into daylight.

  12. psychohistorian

    I agree with the suggestions of a “door” cut into the back of the lower shelf. Assuming fixed shelf height, it should be done so there is a 1/2 inch or more border from the shelving so trim pieces cover the cutting. If the cutting is done well, the removed piece can be put back in with some appropriate backing for it to be adhered to and then the trim applied.

    Good luck and sending out calm energy to you and the cat.

    I can be contacted for consult as I have done that sort of thing before…..Pictures would help.

    1. Lambert Strether

      Not to pile on or assign, but if the situation persists, pictures could help. I’m not visualizing the cables at all. There might be one of those “set the paper bag around the golfball on fire” flashes of insight with an image.

  13. AbyNormal

    Dear Yves, i’m sick about your working on vacations and your poor kitty. you have a hero’s constitution…considering the endless days/nights you spotlight neverending painful events.
    “Heroes are made by the paths they choose, not the powers they are graced with.” b.ashton

    What A Great Group…sharing idea’s to free kitty.

    btw, kitty will deal with whats to come…your home.
    (my wilzen sends his purrrrs to you both)

  14. gregory

    I’m usually just a reader of this site, but I’d like to
    help both you and your poor cat.

    I found your msg a little hard to understand. Not sure,
    for instance, what you mean by “cabled to the wall.”

    In any case, said “cable” would have to be secured at both
    ends. For instance, if you remove the books you should
    see some sort of head, nut, or screw that can be loosened
    with a socket, open end wrench, or screwdriver. (And was
    tightened with same to secure the bookcase to the wall.)

    If the case is extremely finished, these fasteners could
    be recessed into sunk holes and concealed with wood plugs,
    which could be popped out with, say, a chisel.

    In the unlikely event that someone has been stupid enough
    to contrive a support that works otherwise–that there’s
    no means of detaching the case from the wall w/o damage,
    then the weak point is definitely the wall. If plaster,
    the “cable” is held in the wall by an anchor. If sheetrock,
    it’s probably held by an expanding kind of nut.

    Either can be pulled out by emptying the bookcase completely, inserting a crow bar or equivalent between
    the case frame and wall, and levering the anchors out
    of the plaster or drywall. The wall will be damaged; but,
    unlike the cat, it’s inorganic and easily repaired.

    The only exception I can think of offhand would be if
    the wall were framed to receive the bookcase, (as
    is sometimes done for kitchen cabinets, likely
    to be heavy when full.) In that case, the cables,
    bolts, or screw would be sunk into a wooden ledger
    strip running between the studs.

    Unlikely, but think about it: anyone doing it that way
    would definitely have left some way to remove the case.
    For instance, our kitchen cabinets are screwed into
    just such a backing with machine driven screws countersunk
    into their frames. Otherwise, how could these
    furnishings be dismounted for repair or replacement?

    Hope this helps.

    1. Gregory

      One other thought…

      If by “cabled” you meant the bookcase is hung like,
      say, a heavy mirror, then you remove it from the wall
      in pretty much the same way.(You should also be able
      to tilt it a bit if hung in this way.)

      If it’s very big and heavy, you’ll need some neighbors
      or building personnel to help.

      Point is, unless this item is a “built-in”–i.e
      a piece of trimwork–it’s intended to be removable;
      so one removes it in one of a few conventional ways.

      1. gregory

        Another thought about that “other thought”….

        Scrolling through these msgs., it seems that people aren’t
        getting it or that your bookcase is mounted to the wall
        in a most unusual way. Why would anyone do that?

        Going back to the idea that the bookcase is “hung” like
        a picture or mirror–that is prevented from tipping
        forward by “cables” attached to fasteners nailed to
        wall studs or anchored into such “masonry” as brick
        (party wall) or plaster–it may help you to experiment
        with a picture on your wall.

        The “cable,” or ordinary “picture wire,” will be attached
        to the frame at two points, towards the top. It will
        attached to the wall fastener at one point. Unlikely
        that the picture, or the bookcase, will have a second
        such connection further toward it’s bottom.

        This means that you can easily move the picture away
        from the wall at its top, bottom, or any point between.
        It can also be moved upwards rather easily.

        Apply this to the larger, heavier bookcase and you’ll see
        the technique. Lever it upwards or outwards and secure
        the new positions with whatever’s handy and relatively
        incompressible. The cat may jump right out, or he
        may squirm into a worse fix.

        You see the problem’s not to remove or shift the case
        but to avoid hurting the cat. That is, you need to remove
        ALL removable weight from the case, clear the immediate
        area of obstructions, and think about the effect of all
        movements on the animal. (You need to increase his
        freedom of movement and prevent the detached or loosend
        case from slipping down onto him.)

        Unless you have a most unusual bookcase or some
        very good reason for not lightening it by removing
        its contents, the solution should be simple–if

        I gave the technique for a piece bolted or screwed
        to the wall in a previous msg: reverse the order
        of assembly, separate the case from the wall, freeing
        the cat.

        In fairness, these simple technical points can be
        hard to make in writing. For instance, it found it
        difficult to describe a simple plaster wall repair
        to a nephew only in words.

  15. Crazy Horse

    Too bad we’ve exported all the jobs having to do with anything resembling woodworking or craftsmanship, and with it all the skills required to save cats, build furniture, etc.
    Maybe you can get a special waiver from Homeland Security to bring an old world cabinet maker over from Turkey or Romania?

    No, that won’t work because you are on one of their very special lists and they would immediately suspect that your cabinetmaker was bringing a wooden bomb along with his hand tools.

    1. jimmy james

      Well, let’s not get dramatic! Someone with an oscillating saw should be able to do this is less than twenty minutes.

      If it wasn’t 10:30 PM on a Sunday I’d buy one and drive over there.

      1. Gregory

        And how would the cat like that?

        Our female is subject to mosquito bites on her silky ears,
        which can become infected. After two years, she’s
        still terrified by a gentle pump spray of repellent.

        No, better just to remove the bookcase or shift it away
        from the wall. The space between the case and wall sure
        doesn’t sound like a built-in, which most finishers
        would have closed with a molding; so it’s most likely
        to be removable and/or movable.

        Probably just a case of removing whatever’s on the shelves,
        examining the case carefully to see just how it’s hung
        and reversing the process.

        Btw, it sounds like the cat’s now squished between the case
        backing and wall, which suggests that there’s play
        there. If there’s enough, you just tease the gap
        open with the prybar, inserting scrap or books as
        you go, until the cat’s released or can be extracted.

        “Easy does it,” eh?

  16. StuntTrader

    You need to remove the bottom shelf above the cat.
    It’s possible that the shelf will simply lift out. You’ll need to put a couple of screws into it as makeshift “handles”
    If not, the bottom shelf may slide out forwards. If you unscrew any screws going into the shelf through the sides. There may be screws or nails through the back too so you may need a crowbar/pry bar to separate the shelf from the back.
    In the meantime you may be able to slide in water in a small plastic container taped to a coat hanger or broom handle.
    When the problem is solved block the hole so it can’t happen again, and perhaps change your cat sitter!

  17. Erich

    If the bookcase isn’t against an outside wall, it might be easier to go through the wall from the other side. If the wall is just sheetrock and studs, you might be able to cut it with a utility knife.

    1. LucyLulu

      I agree. Walls are easy to cut through, whether drywall or plaster, and then repair again. A little paint finishes it off. If you don’t have the paint anymore, save a piece of the removed wall, they can match it at any store that sells paint.

      I must not quite understand what you meant by removing the baseboard that nobody else picked up on it, but just in case…… Removing baseboard is also very simple. It’s attached with nails every foot or so, and there is caulking (and dried paint) along the seam between the baseboard and the wall. Cut the caulking with a knife, and then pry the baseboard off the wall. It will be a piece about 8 ft long, shorter if its the last run up to a doorway or corner. After the suitably contrite feline is removed, just re-install the same piece of baseboard you removed. Recaulk and repaint.

      I’m sorry about your kitty. You must be frantic. Though I suspect you have a passive-aggressive one, and quite clever as well. She’s ensured you’ll never take another vacation again. Fortunately my children weren’t so smart. It was the sitter who they trapped so she couldn’t escape instead.

  18. L. Blankfeind

    The following instructions should work. We do it all the time.

    1. Short the cat and the book-shelf.

    2. Go long another cat of same color, but smaller size, and another book-shelf of same type.

    3. Take the second cat from behind the second shelf.

    4. Cover your short.

  19. Flying Kiwi

    I have no constructive solutions, except to observe that in the civilised parts of the English-speaking World and extensive, well-supported organisation exists to assist in just such situations – the RSPCA. In my kneck of the woods a local branch has spent many hours and much ingenuity trying to get a kitten – Moggles – out of a Phoenix Palm, despite the fact that it doesn’t seem to want to be got out:


    It has been often observed that animals have a Royal Society to look out for them. Children only have a Nstional Society.

  20. Bart Fargo

    Without seeing a picture of the scene I’m not sure how well this would work, but if the space between the back of the bookcase and the wall from top to bottom is at least enough space to fit the cat (and it sounds like there is more space once you get above the baseboard), and the cat is able to move around behind the bookcase (it sounds like he can), then there might be a way you could rescue the cat without damaging the furniture. Get a medium-sized, thin-walled pillowcase or cloth bag, and secure a 25 ft+ piece of rope around the opening. Put some treats or something in the bag, toss it up and over the bookcase (into the space between the bookcase and the wall) and lower it down to where the cat is. Wait for or prod the cat to climb inside the bag, and then pull on the rope to lift the bag with cat up to the top of the bookcase, and get him down from there. This probably sounds really silly, but if this were me, and the furniture were nice enough, I’d would try this first and just ruin a pillowcase instead of ruining the bookcase right off the bat by cutting a hole in it.

    1. Bart Fargo

      Or, if you think the cat could get out if it had the extra space taken up by the baseboard, you could shove a series of lengths of wood behind the bookcase to make a kind of staircase for the cat to walk up and get above the level of the baseboard on its own. Then it can just keep moving along the top piece of wood until it is out. But I don’t think many people have a bunch of 3 inch by 3-4 feet pieces of lumber around the house, whereas most people probably have a pillowcase and rope :)

      1. anon y'mouse

        sounds like the cat is actually UNDER the bookcase. has magically snaked his way under there with that belly-scoot thing that they do, and now has no room to get back out again to the space behind the case. cats that I’ve seen have not ever done the collapsed-spine belly-scoot thing in a sideways manner. they always go head first until their whole body is out from under.

        cat might have room to do it if one could slide the shelf forward. it always appears from our eyes that they can’t get out of such places, but my cats somehow manage to do this all the time from under our very low, Japanese futon style bedframe. they need an entire cat-length of space to do it in, though.

      2. Eric W

        Something was said about the cat not being able to get any leverage to move, I think the idea of getting some spacing wood under the cat is quite possibly the first thing to try. It would require no damage to anything. It might allow the cat to help itself. If you could make a tapered piece and cover it with carpet, an inclined plane that the cat could drag itself forward on, to get above the baseboard… Maybe something could be done with just carpet to give the cat a chance, especially if it is not declawed. Best wishes for the recovery.

  21. down2long

    My thoughts are with cutting into the bottom shelf. I would rent a 4 1/2″ grinder, use a four inch diamond blade (which is smooth and not serrated and which I’ve accidentally put the cutting side against my skin more times that I care to count, it does not cut flesh) I would remove the books and cut the bottom shelf two cuts at 45 degrees angles about 1 foot apart. (On the perpendicular to the wall.) Then, if there are not two planks, two parallal cuts at 45 degrees or so. Cut with the diamond blade until you have a nice rectangle cut. Use the blade to pry out the “plug” or screw a couple of screws into the rectangle and lift out “plug” Now you have room to look for kitty or bring food and water close to opening. Kitty will climb out by morning. You’re trying to make a “plug.” One kitty is out, drop plug back in until next time. No need to even caulk.

    You could use oscillating saw, but they take forever and bounce on hard woods. A diamond blade in a grinder is formidable – it can cut tile or wood and will not cut kitty.

    Just a thought. Too many years of construction and too many times having to get under a wooden or tile floor without destroying everything……..

    1. down2long

      And yes Yves, you must continue to go on vacation. I know you are a new woman who we will get to witness in the flush of newly found energy once you get kitty free, which will be soon.

      Welcome back. Hope you had a blast (whatever form that takes for you – maybe just doing nothing.)

  22. Paul Tioxon

    Cat problems? I have 2 daughters and a son. They now come with in-laws. That’s on top those that came with my wife. Needless to say, you DON’T want to know. Welcome back, everything is as you left it. Hope the cat lands on its feet from behind the freedom killing bookcase.

      1. Hayek's Heelbiter

        Further proof that NC has one of the largest knowledge bases of any blogs I read. Hopefully one of the posts will provide you an Eureka solution.

        Hope it gets resolved ASAP with minimum trauma to you both.

        My two wonderful little kitties died last year and even though they reached ripe old ages, I’m still bereft.

        Once, one managed to get into a crawlspace, and I thought we would have use the proverbial jackhammer to get her out, but she managed to extricate herself on her own.

        My heart goes out to you.

        Not to belittle your situation, but you notice there have been more replies to this post than on any other issue I’ve ever read. The Great Recession, Obama Care, Syria, none of them can hold a candle to the plight of your poor creature.

        Further proof that a 1,000 years from archeologists will write, “The Internet was medium by which people could exchange pictures and messages regarding Felis domesticus doing ordinary and extraordinary things (playing the piano, unrolling toilet paper, flushing toilets). Occasionally it was used for other things such as informing people of current events or the Apocalpyse.


        Ps. What’s your kitty’s name? Mine were Pansypuss and Fredipus Rex.

  23. Elliot

    Oh no kitty!
    I second trying to lift out the bottom shelf or back panel.

    If I weren’t on the other edge of the continent, I’d come, I have all the tools and decades of scared cat extrication experience.

    I hope this is needless advice and both Yves and feline are safely relaxing away from the bookcase.

    If not, since this is a masonry wall, and the top part is cabled, if the whole thing can be emptied and the cable cut (bolt cutters) and the top removed, then slide the case away from the wall (crowbar/chunk of 2×4/heavy table leg). Or tilt it up enough, and block it with 2×4’s, to reach in for kitty.

    If it’s all too immovable, and you can localize the cat, and he/she’s not moving around too speedily, drilling a hole large enough to admit a mirror will help you find him, and then saw a hole near enough to reach in and retrieve him.

    (Non cat-having readers: cats are fragile and squishable, and it’s generally not in their best interests to try to remove them from a hole backwards; cat-dynamics are designed for forward movement).

    Cats, domestic house cats, can go some days without eating, but water is a more pressing concern… but I am sure with all Yves’ readers concern being sent heavenwards, this will be resolved before lunchtime tomorrow.

  24. brookside

    I think “down2long” has the best ideas and I would be a little suprised if the super does not have an angle grinder. To prevent future kitty misadventures you should block off the gap between the bookcase and the wall. You will need a foam board (30″ x 40″ or 40″ x 60″) and a utility knife which are carried by office supply stores such as Officemax and Office Depot. Cut a couple of strip of foam board a little wider (1/8″) than the gap between the bookcase and the wall and trim the bottom of the strips to approximately fit around the baseboard. Then wedge the foam board strips between the wall and the back of bookcase. That should prevent any cat intrusions but no gurantees because cat can get in the darnest places.

  25. LAS

    Sorry to here about this. Removing the baseboard seems the least destructive and easiest move. Can you figure out which way the cat is facing and do it on the side its facing? Cats can easier pull themselves forward than back.

  26. margarets

    No no no no. Cats CAN’T go a long time without water. Even one day without water can kill them. And not eating for a day is risky too! Get your cat out of there! (Even if he is still alive without water now, do not risk it.)

  27. howdee

    My vet says cats can go a while without food, but shouldn’t go more than two days without water, otherwise they can develop kidney problems.

  28. Mcmike

    As stated above, methodical disassembly is worth considering.

    The fact that you cannot figure out how it was assembled is your hint. Chances are there is a clever “key”. Wherein the anchors come out.

    Without seeing it that is, so it may well be glued and cabled to last forever. On the other hand, there is surely a way to take it apart without destruction.

    Ps long pry bars can be got for cheap at hardware stores. And scissor jacks at auto parts for prying.

    Why no mention of hiring a very good cabinet carpenter handyman?

  29. h

    My guess is whoever built your shelves set the screws (probably large ones and lots of them, from your description of the size of the shelves) a bit deeper than the finish surface of the wood, the holes were then filled with wood putty prior to the entire unit being paint. (This assumes the shelves were painted after installation. Having been in many residential buildings in Manhattan, my bet is they probably are painted.) Unless the screws were covered with trim to conceal them, a possibility, or if the unit has been painted a number of times, you may be able to see where the screws are because putty tends to shrink over time and you may be able to see roundish cracks in the paint where the screws are located. Or, if the putty wasn’t sanded down smooth enough, then you may be able to see or feel little raised bumps on the wood surface where the screws are. You need someone with good carpentry skills. There are lots of very skilled finish carpenters in the city, which is just what you need.

    Good luck. Cats are the best.

  30. FreeKitty

    Go to Home Depot or the like. Buy a board that is 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Have guys at Home Depot cut the board into 12″ lengths (depth of bookcase) by 4″ width shims. If 1/4″ thick, you will need 32 of them or 10 square feet of wood. If 1/2″ thick, you will need 16 of them or 5 square feet of wood. In this case, exterior grade plywood is rough and not slippery (or less slippery).

    Move the bookcase toward the wall. This movement will increase slack in the cable so the bookcase can go up.

    Rock the bookcase to the right. Insert one shim on the left.
    Rock the bookcase to the left. Insert one shim on the right.
    Repeat until the bookcase has been raised 4″. Or, if the cable is one 3″ long, 3″ inches.

    I would think it would be best if you had a relatively tall person with some strength. And, maybe someone to hold the shims in place so they don’t squirt out as you rock the bookcase.

    You might be able to accomplish the same with phone books (adding a few pages at a time as you rock) if anyone has phone books.

  31. tim s

    cats climb. I’d try covering a 2×4 with some carpet an setting it down in there at an angle an let it climb out.

  32. steelhead23

    Is the cat declawed? IF not, you may be able to extricate him from the top. Lower a fibrous rope down to him and try to get him to latch on and haul him out that way. Its worth a try. Also, a mayday to your local animal control folks may help as well. Good luck.

  33. dejavuagain

    Definitely a job for a Fein Multimaster tool with the wide blade – great for cutting openings in wood. Sears has a lower cost knock-off – and other companies. Try Home Depot tools. Get at least a two inch wide blade. Good luck.

    Let me know and I will bring one over.

  34. F. Beard

    0) Oh, dear!

    1) Make sure he has water.

    2) There are precision tools such as a Dremel that could cut thru the bookcase or wall with little chance of hurting the cat. About a $100 at Lowes or Home Despot. On second thought, a single skilled craftsman would be handy too – brawn is not necessarily need.

    3) Pictures would help people to understand the problem better.

    4) I pray you’ll get help soon.

  35. Linden

    Before doing anything, go to your vet, get a sedative, and apply it to the cat. That should make the whole operation easier both for you and the cat.

  36. SJB

    If you post a picture, I can show it to my husband. He is a cabinet maker and contractor. We are in DC so he can’t do it. Feel free to send me an email with some pics if you like.

  37. Steve Branda

    If you want to cut the cat out SAFELY a good rotary tool is the best tool because they can cut to a precise depth eliminating any risk for the cat. Something like this:


    If I were going the cutting route this is what I would do.

    1. Get some SPAX brand screws that are shorter than the wood is thick and use them to anchor wire or rope for pulling in the section of wood you want to remove.

    2. Cut the section of wood using the rotary saw. Try to leave as little wood left as possible. Maybe 1/16th of an inch or less. It will be very loud though.

    3. Pull the section away from the cat. The thin layer of wood left should break when you pull it towards yourself and away from the cat.

  38. Jess

    First of all, here’s hoping that kitty is rescued safely and without permanent injury.

    Now, having done some furniture building and finished construction work, here’s my guess:

    1. The bottom shelf isn’t really a shelf, it’s the bottom of the entire cabinet. It’s the primary piece holding the ends together at the right distance, same way the top piece does. Therefore, the idea of somehow removing it isn’t going to fly. And cutting into it will be work. It may well be double the thickness of the individual shelves.

    2. The best ides I’ve heard is cutting the cables (which are there to keep the bookcase from falling over), then jacking up one end using shims. Start by emptying all the shelves to minimize the weight. Then have someone rock up the bookcase enough to get a padded crow bar under the end. Use a block under the crowbar as a fulcrum to increase the leverage, then push down on the crowbar and raise the bookcase as far as you can. (Until either the cat scoots out or the bookcase hits the ceiling.)

    3. Chances are the front of the bookcase has decorative molding. If you take it off, then when the bookcase is levered up, there should be enough room for the cat to slither out on it’s tummy.

    Keeping my fingers crossed and my two kitties are sending their love to yours.

    BTW: Once cat is safely out, posting a pix as tomorrow’s antidote du jour is mandatory.

    1. F. Beard

      Sounds like a plan. I’d add that some means of preventing the bookcase from falling forward (once the cables are cut) such as a couple of diagonal braces in the front might be wise. Or some large furniture butted against it in the front so that only upward motion is allowed as the bookcase is jacked. Or maybe a mattress or some other padding in case it does fall.

  39. Matt

    Rocking a fridge or bookcase and then sliding a mover’s hand cart underneath is pretty standard.
    If using a 3′ metal lever bar then probably use first a cloth and then a block of wood on the bookshelf side, and then also a block(s) of wood on the masonry side to both protect the masonry and get the right gap to do the lever. Then a simultaneous rock to get the weight off the base and you might not damage the floor.

  40. Dick Harding

    I had a cat who got wedged behind a hot water heater. He was in the narrow triangular space between the water heater and the corner of the walls. I was frantic and could see way to move the heater in the apartment. I could tell he was getting exhausted. Finally I hung a flimsy blanket over the top of the heater. The cat dug its claws into the blanket and was able to pull himself out. Funny, after all this time, I still get nervous just thinking about it. Good luck to you and especially your cat.

  41. d cortex

    My cat got stuck 11 stories above Broadway when he walked on the ledge between the apartment windows and got to the corner of the structure and couldn’t make the 90 degree turn.

    After going into the neighbors apartment nearest the corner of the building, we called and coaxed for nearly an hour – he backed up on the ledge and came into the strangers apartment hearing our voices!!!

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