UNION GAP — Caitlyn Wertenberger knew something was wrong when Piper, her big black-and-white cat, missed several meals. Piper likes to eat; that’s how she got to 19 pounds.
Piper uses a doggy door in the large back section of the Union Gap, Yakima County, home of Ron and Juanda Krebs, Caitlyn’s grandparents. In the more than a year Caitlyn has lived with them, Piper has gone out into the enclosed backyard a few times a day. She could get up on their roof and could climb the tall wooden fence between them and their neighbor to the north, but rarely did.
So Piper’s family wouldn’t have been surprised to find her in the neighbor’s backyard, or up on the roof. But they don’t know exactly how she ended up stuck inside the neighbor’s chimney, or how long she was there in the 28 days she was missing.
After weeks of walking and driving through the neighborhood and beyond, sharing flyers and knocking on doors, posting multiple Facebook updates with photos of Piper and pleas for information, Piper came home Monday thanks to persistent meows and a creative, two-level rescue effort by Caitlyn and her dad, Chris Wertenberger.
“Ever since she came back, she’s overly affectionate and talkative,” Caitlyn said Wednesday as she cuddled a slimmer Piper, whose white paws and belly were still smudged with ash. Piper lost 7 pounds and her ample belly while she was missing, she said. “She used to be squishier,” Caitlyn said.
Piper is about 7 years old, microchipped and spayed. She was around 3 months old when Caitlyn adopted her from the Yakima Humane Society. Caitlyn was living in Wapato then with her parents, Chris and Kim Krebs Wertenberger.
When Caitlyn moved to Union Gap, Piper had been an indoor-only cat but soon learned how to use the doggy door. Caitlyn’s grandparents have three dogs — Missy, a senior terrier; Melvin, a big Doberman; and Chief, a German shepherd who likes to chase his tail.
Piper’s big adventure began Feb. 23. Caitlyn was home from work all day and didn’t see her. Two days later, still no Piper. Her mom started sharing a flyer on Facebook with photos and more information, along with posting yard signs and handing out flyers.
Family and friends started sharing among themselves and with several Facebook pages. They followed up on possible sightings.
“WHERE IS PIPER?” Kim Wertenberger posted March 5 on Facebook. “We are still looking for you, you are SO MISSED by your girl and your bird!!”
Piper’s bird buddy is Remy, a black-headed caique who likes to play with Piper’s tail. Theirs is a pet-friendly home: along with Piper, Remy and the three dogs, there are fish and several reptiles, including eight ball pythons and two hooded dragons.
People kept up the search for Piper but were getting discouraged. While they were looking, the neighboring house to the north was empty except for workers. Piper’s family gave them flyers and asked them to look for her.
Turns out listening was the key. The new neighbors moved in and heard meowing for at least five days but couldn’t tell where it was coming from, Kim Wertenberger posted. At 3 a.m. Monday, they figured it out. Caitlin headed next door, squeezed into the fireplace, looked up and saw her cat peering over the top of the fireplace damper just above her.
“I was able to reach up and in. I could pet her. I gave her water and cat food,” Caitlyn said.
They called a chimney guy who was going to come and remove some bricks, but Chris Wertenberger got to work first. He bought a ladder and a dog tie-out cable with a special clip. Caitlyn had pushed a square fabric bag into the space around Piper, then moved her into it. Her dad dropped the clip down, clipped it on the bag handles and pulled Piper up.
Though Piper was dehydrated, the vet said she was fine.
“It was awesome — the best-case scenario for a worst-case scenario,” Caitlyn said.