Tails from the Foster Program: An Escape Artist at Work

Still image taken from video footage shows Butter, an orange tabby, emerging from a vent in the floor of her foster family's bathroom.

Gary and Barbara started fostering for Cat Adoption Team when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and limited volunteer activities at CAT’s shelter. As cat-loving people in a cat-free home, it felt natural to become foster parents. They started with four cute kittens and haven’t looked back!

The couple have fun memories with all their foster kitties, but their first adult foster cat is truly unforgettable.

Butter, an extremely shy three-year-old female kitty, came to stay in foster care with Barbara and Gary for some support and socialization. They set her up in a bathroom with loads of comfy hiding and sleeping spots, and all the other things she would need. One day not long after her arrival, the couple went into the bathroom to visit her and… she wasn’t there! She wasn’t hiding behind the toilet. She wasn’t curled up under her blanket. She hadn’t gotten into the cabinets. Did she vanish into thin air?!

A fluffy orange cat nervously crouches in a stainless steel kennel
Shy kitty Butter went into foster care to help her come out of her shell. Once there, she lived up to her slippery name!

Then they noticed the floor vent was askew. Somehow Butter had pried up the metal vent and crawled into the narrow ductwork!

Frantic with worry, the couple called CAT’s foster program coordinator, along with their on-call foster mentor and a few different HVAC companies. The advice was to entice Butter with tasty treats and wait for her to come back out on her own. They set up a baby monitor to watch her activity. She would come up to snack, but scurried back into the vent as soon as anyone entered the bathroom.

Finally, after 36 hours they caught her!

Hoping to prevent another disappearing act, Gary and Barbara left a heavy plywood cover over the vent so that Butter couldn’t get it off again. But by the next morning, Butter was gone again. Reviewing footage from the baby monitor, the couple could see Butter working her magic at the vent. After diligently pushing aside the plywood, she pried up the register and went back into the ductwork.

“What kind of cat does this?” Gary remembers thinking, “We were nice to her and so confused by this odd behavior!”

They lured her up and out of the vent once again with a trail of kibble treats covered in Churu. Once she was safely back out, the two foster parents screwed the vent to the floor before once again covering it with the piece of plywood. This time they even dropped a 25-lb. barbell on top of the board to hold it in place. And they covered everything with a plastic bin for extra security. That night on the monitor they could see Butter fighting to uncover the vent again. But they had foiled her attempts to escape a third time.

The next day, Barbara and Gary drove Butter to CAT so she could go home with her adopter. Yes, someone was happy to add Butter to their family, despite her goofy antics!

“While we were on our way to CAT, she managed to escape her carrier and came up to the passenger side of the vehicle,” Gary recalls, “She curled up there under our legs and looked up at us with this loving look. Then she took a nap!”

Gary and Barbara have since fostered many other cats with no more disappearances!

Watch the video below to see Butter sneak in and out of the vent.

About Cat Adoption Team

Cat Adoption Team (CAT) is the largest cat shelter in the Pacific Northwest. We offer adoption, foster care, and veterinary services to homeless cats and kittens.

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