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Not all heroes wear capes or form-fitting body armor. Some wear ice-encrusted fur!
Fluffy, an adorably resilient cat from Kalispell, Montana, recently survived a brush with the polar vortex after her owners found her covered in chunks of ice and snow.
The United States has experienced record low temperatures in recent weeks with some locations hitting -49 degrees Celsius. At least 21 deaths have been blamed on the frigid winter temperatures this season.
To put these extraordinarily cold temperatures in perspective, Niagara Falls was completely frozen over last week after temperatures in Ontario, Canada, plunged to –18 degrees Celsius.
The sudden extreme temperatures are the result of a polar vortex – a weather phenomenon that occurs in the winter and impacts parts of the northern hemisphere.
So understandably, Katherine and James Perry were a "more than a little worried" when Fluffy, their six-year-old long-haired ragdoll, refused to come in on the evening of January the 30th.
"Normally, her routine is to go outside and slink around the property line and do her business," James told ABC affiliate KWYB in Montana.
The following morning, with the winter winds howling outside, the Perry family feared the worst.
"We didn't know where she was," said little Annabell Perry, who recently turned three. "And daddy said it was snowing outside."
But as it turns out, Fluffy was all too close to home...
James, an aviation mechanic, began searching the snow-covered two acres the make up his family's backyard with a flashlight at dawn.
"There are all kinds of wild animals that come up, of course," he said. "But with the weather being what it was, my instinct told me it was unlikely a predator had taken her. And I couldn't just stay inside sipping coffee and waiting on our cat. My little girl wanted to know where Fluffy was!"
When he came upon the family's beloved housecat, she looked more like an ice-ball mop than feline.
Fluffy was discovered unresponsive in a snow bank in Kalispell, Montana, located in the far northwest region of the state, in the wee morning hours of January the 31st.
"The low that day was 8 degrees Fahrenheit," said Katherine Perry.
Fluffy wasn't technically frozen solid, but she had been exposed to the elements for almost twelve full hours...
"Fluffy wasn't completely frozen, but she was stiff, and completely unresponsive," said Dr. Andrea Dutter, executive director of the Animal Clinic of Kalispell.
Her temperature was well below 90 degrees Fahrenheit — the lower limit on the hospital's thermometers. Cats normally run temperatures a few degrees warmer than the average human body temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
"We immediately began to warm her up," Dutter told a local newspaper, The Post. "Warm water, heating pads, hot towels... and within a couple hours, something amazing began to happen."
The Perry family — James, Katherine, and little Annabell — all waited patiently as possible in the small waiting room of the animal clinic.
Finally, Dr. Dutter came out and told the Perry family the news, but it wasn't what they were hoping for...
For two hours, Dr. Dutter and her staff tried to warm the frigid cat, but although her vitals were actually improving, they had reached the limited of what they could do for her.
"She needed additional methods we weren't equipped to provide," said Dr. Dutter. "We send her to the human emergency room down the road to receive additional life-saving treatments."
When the nurse at Kalispell Regional Medical Center informed the the Perry family that their cat was actually going to be fine, Katherine burst into tears.
"Fluffy is just so important to Annabell," said Katherine. "How do you even begin to explain death to a three-year-old?"
And so, what became of Fluffy?
Miraculously, Fluffy made a full recovery and on the following Tuesday, she was sent home with her family.
"She was pretty feisty — she was grumbling and hissing at us," said Dr. Duncan Picard, the emergency room physician on duty that day. "I think it's safe to say, this was the first time any of us had ever treated a cat before."
Fluffy is normally an indoor-outdoor cat who knows her way home, but had apparently become immobilized after sustaining an injury to her leg — which doctors discovered after they "thawed her out."
And today, she's just another happy member of the Perry family...