This is the worst memory of Kevin Burton’s life.
As a teenager in suburban Baltimore 30 years ago—packing a car for a family trip—Burton heard his younger sister screaming from the basement. He ran downstairs. Inside the dryer was Tyson, the family cat — hot, shaking, bloody.
Mr. Burton grabs the cat from a pile of laundry. Tyson died in his arms.
His sister kept crying for hours. The family buried their pet near their lake house and never mentioned the incident again.
“One of the gifts that pets give us is to teach kids about life and death, but you don’t want to teach that way,” said Burton, a software entrepreneur. “You don’t want your cat to be violently mauled to death.”
According to Census data, a full 86% of American households have a washer-dryer. About a quarter of them own a cat, with an average of 1.8 cats per household, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
In Manhattan, an in-unit washer-dryer—which is the Holy Grail of apartment living—has always been more attainable. According to the real-estate data company, between 2015 and 2022, the number of condo and co-op buildings that allow washer-dryers increased from 15% to 27%. urbandigs, The number allowing pets increased from 14% to 40%.
According to UrbanDigs co-founder John Walkup, probably 90% or more of new developments in the city over the past decade have included washer-dryers — typically stacked rather than side-by-side.
But when a cat bites with a dryer, the risk is real — and now, at home, it’s greater than ever.
Veterinarian Sarah E. Cudney said, “The dryer is a cozy, warm place for cats to be, and that’s all they want in the world.”
Cudney said, while doing an internship in veterinary critical care, “I had a washer cat and a dryer cat in the same night.” “The owners were talking about it because they were very upset. Those cats were lucky they were okay.
At the end of 2021, Cudney published a study On cats in dryers in the Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care. “Anecdotal reports were seen of people who dried their cats and often lost them,” she said, although this phenomenon had not previously been reported in the veterinary literature.
“It was common enough that I was able to get three cases in a row,” Cudney said. “He had different gaps in his withers.” All three of his sample cats survived. Not surprisingly, the length of dryer time corresponded with the severity of the injury.
The cat that endured the full 45-minute dryer cycle had a temperature of over 109 degrees—too high to measure—and was hospitalized for nine days.
Cudney said the primary injury was heat stroke, which has been studied primarily in dogs. Most of the information on dogs comes from Israel, where multi working dog In extreme heat and humidity one can suffer from heat stroke.
When an animal is overheated, “massive vasodilation occurs,” she said, as blood moves away from vital organs. “Direct thermal injury to all organs and muscles.” The main surface injury he found was “corneal and mucous membrane ulceration”—sores on the eyes and mouth.
Ears are sung. “One cat had a broken tooth, but no one had any broken bones,” Cudney said, “probably because they’re in with the laundry, and it’s kind of jarring.” “I talk to a lot of emergency vets. and most have seen dryer cat. This usually stays on their mind as it is very painful for both the owner and the pet. The owners feel terrible.
Cat owners should always check the dryer, catproof their house – Like keeping cabinets closed and avoiding poisonous house plants – Keeping track of all house cats and knowing where the nearest emergency animal hospital is, that’s all. And on laundry day itself, they should write a reminder to check the dryer just one extra time for safety.
If a badly injured cat doesn’t die on the way to the vet, treatment is expensive. “Caring for these cats and special products require a special level of knowledge,” Cudney said.
If a pet owner tries to cool a cat taken out of a dryer, Cudney recommends they use a fan.
Distressing online accounts suggest that people leave the dryer door ajar and fail to realize that a sleeping cat is inside, or that they turn away for a moment while the cat quietly walks in. She goes. The guilt is crushing; Memory pain.
“There’s no cultural discussion about it,” Burton said. “I think it happens and it’s so painful that people never want to talk about it again. I don’t think people realize that it’s a danger.
Sometimes the cat is rescued in time. Annette Paulsen, of Dallas, managed to rescue her gray tabby, Angel, who somehow got into the top half of a stacked washer-dryer.
He heard thumping, and initially thought there was a sneaker in the dryer.
“The cat was hot to the touch and I was hysterical,” said Paulsen, a clinical research coordinator at a medical center. “The cat was having difficulty walking. It thrashed around. I immediately called the vet, who asked me all these questions: Is the cat panting or moving or making any noises, and is she cries when you touch her?
In short, the cat was fine. “It took him 30 minutes to get his sea legs back,” said Paulsen, whose family usually has several cats. “I was sure I killed the cat. I consider myself lucky. Now, I never turn on the dryer without making sure there’s a cat in it. It was very painful. I even check the washer Am.
An associate professor at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, veterinarian Elizabeth A. Cats seem to get trapped in dryers more often than in washers, Rozansky said. He is an expert in animal respiration and has studied small animals submerged in water.
a study from 2010, published in the Canadian Veterinary Journal, examined two cats, each trapped in a front-loading washer. The major issue there was drowning. (Laundry detergent is also toxic.)
A 3-month-old kitten that was trapped for 5 to 10 minutes died of drowning and head injuries. An older cat that was trapped for 1 minute survived, but later developed skin lesions that were successfully treated. The study noted that “front-loading washing machines provide easier access for pets” than top-loading machines.
In Prospect, Connecticut, Doreen Kaminski once inadvertently locked a cat in a dryer, was interrupted by a ringing phone, and another time locked a cat in an empty dishwasher after turning her back .
In both cases, he heard the noise and immediately freed the cats. “Now, I check the oven too,” said Kaminsky, who volunteers to Mustache Pet Rescue in Southbury.
There have also been instances of cats becoming trapped in file cabinets – and suffocating inside picnic coolers. Last fall, in the security line at Kennedy Airport, X-rays identified a cat crept in One checked suitcase.
“I learned,” said Kaminsky, who retired as a paralegal and later managed a pet-supply store. “I’m constantly watching. Cats get into everything.