Cats don’t jump into front-loading washers and dryers every day. In fact, nobody keeps statistics on cat injuries sustained when going though a spin cycle.
But, it happens. And it nearly happened to my cat years ago.
I was living in a one-bedroom condo with a tiny laundry room. As I bent down to separate my whites from my darks, my 6-month-old calico kitten jumped into the open washer. I was about to close the glass door and turn on the machine, when I saw Blaze curled up on the clothes about to be washed.
My heart nearly exploded as I grabbed Blaze and thought about the seconds that separated my kitten from certain injury or death. Twenty years later, I still cringe at the thought.
Cats harmed in large appliances are rare, but not unheard of.
Last year, a Siberian Forest cat named Natasha became a celebrity when the Oakland, Calif. pet went through an entire wash cycle and earned the dubious distinction of the Veterinary Pet Insurance Company’s “Most Unusual Claim of the Month.”
Natasha recovered from severe hypothermia and shock after a trip to an emergency animal hospital. But many cats aren’t as lucky.
Injuries from cats in washers and dryers include:
• Broken bones
• Muscle injuries
• Crushing injuries
• Kidney damage
• Head injuries
Dr. Karl Landrey, a Californian veterinarian specializing in critical care, once treated a cat for hyperthermia after being trapped in a dryer. Cats suffer hyperthermia when their body temperature climbs above 106 degrees F; dryers can reach 175 degrees F.
“Cats more commonly jump into dryers than washers,” Landrey says. “They like the warmth. And they hate water.”
Cats also jump into appliances because because small, den-like spaces make cats feel secure.
“Cats love to sneak into hiding places where they can observe and monitor their surroundings without being seen,” says Cori Gross, a field veterinarian with Veterinary Pet Insurance. “They are also very curious about new places to explore. Washers and dryers fit these criteria perfectly!”
It’s rare for a cat to go through a complete washing or drying cycle, Landrey says. Owners most often hear an odd sound coming from the appliance and investigate fairly quickly.
If you’ve got a curious cat, here are precautions you should take, says Gross.
- Always keep appliance doors closed when not in use.
- Keep doors to laundry rooms closed so kitty doesn’t get used to going in there.
- Before you turn on the washer or dryer, do a hand sweep to make sure your cat hasn’t jumped in.
- Tape a sign to the machine reminding you to be on the lookout for curious cats.
- If your cat ever gets trapped in an appliance, immediately take him to a vet for assessment.