Rafa probably wasn’t expecting his adventure to end this way.
silver and white cat with light blue eyes who got stuck in a pipe
Credit: Courtesy of Nationwide

An audacious cat found himself in a chilly situation after plunging 45 feet deep into a drainpipe, where he was half-submerged in freezing cold water for hours. 

Rafa, a Siberian mix from Seattle, decided he was going on an adventure after he sneaked out the front door of his house this past April while his mom labored to bring some pizza boxes inside. However, this spontaneous trek didn't exactly go to plan. 

Rafa's owners, Jose and Susan, noticed their cat was missing after it seemed eerily quiet in their house. They set off on a search right away but had no luck. They resumed the next morning, and Susan eventually heard meows in the distance while calling Rafa's name. The couple found out the noises were coming from a nearby storm drain, so they needed to call for extra help. 

Neighbors, the fire department, Seattle Public Utilities staff, and Roto-Rooter employees all united to help save the trapped, freezing feline. The cat, nicknamed Puffy, had plummeted 45 feet down the sloping pipe, and he was up to his neck in freezing water—and an incoming storm was going to fill the pipe with even more water. 

The team had to act fast to get Rafa out safely before the storm arrived, but it wasn't easy. The team worked to cut down obstructing blackberry bushes, dig up the pipe, and cut the pipe open over the course of several hours. Thanks to their hard work, Rafa was finally free and safe in Jose's arms.

He was rushed to an emergency veterinarian right away and was diagnosed with severe hypothermia and other complications. Thankfully, after spending a week at the ICU, Rafa made a full recovery and was back to his boisterous self in no time. 

Thanks to Rafa's wild adventure, he earned the Hambone Award from insurance provider Nationwide. The Hambone Award is given to the most peculiar pet insurance claim of the year, as voted on by the public. Rafa's family received the winning prize: a $1,000 gift card, a $1,000 donation in their name to a pet charity of their choosing, and the ham-shaped Hambone Award trophy. 

Rafa faced some tough competition for the coveted award, beating out 12 other nominees. His competition included an orange cat who became covered in spray foam insulation, a mini Australian shepherd who was stung by a jellyfish-type animal, a Doberman pinscher who scuffled with a raccoon, and a Siamese mix who went for a spin in the dryer. 

Russell, a California mixed-breed dog who cracked several teeth after falling face-first onto a concrete step, finished in second place. Rex, a shih tzu from Michigan who lodged a wishbone in his throat, captured the bronze. The families of Russell and Rex were awarded a $500 gift card and $500 donation in their name to a pet charity of their choice. 

Even with their serious injuries, all the Hambone nominees have fully recovered.