Where were you during the Great Cat Panic of 2018?
This morning, Phoenix television station ABC15 started broadcasting live video of a black-and-white cat stuck on top of an electrical pole near 37th Avenue and Bethany Home Road. Don't worry — the cat was rescued. But before neighbors carried the kitty to safety using a ladder, around half a million viewers lost their collective mind.
The livestream showed the cat perched on top of the pole, occasionally letting a paw dangle off the edge while testing its weight on the wire. Viewer reactions ran the whole gamut of human emotion: panic, fury, annoyance, desperation.
According to the Phoenix Fire Department, so many people called 911 to tell them about the cat that the Department's "alarm room was overwhelmed with phone calls," causing a delay in answering emergency 911 calls.
Almost 20,000 people commented on the livestream, and the animal-lovers who tuned in immediately expressed concern for the cat's life and limb. "[I'm] literally having an anxiety attack over this," viewer Samantha Lorusso wrote on Facebook.
Cat owners gave recommendations based on past experience with cats and their urge to climb. Patti Corrigan-Jensen said that loud noise during the rescue attempt could inadvertently startle the cat and cause it to leap off.
"They can't come down," Vanessa Trahan advised the network. "You have to get them down ... they can go up but need help down."
The cat was a stray, according to ABC15, and neighbors said it been stuck on top of the pole since Friday. At various points during the livestream, the cat almost seemed like it was weighing a jump off of the pole, which appeared to be about 30 feet high.
At one point, ABC had to urge viewers to please stop calling the Phoenix Fire Department because they were aware of the cat's predicament.
“They appreciate the concern for this cat, but they are kindly asking for you to not call 911 in regards to this particular situation," ABC's unnamed livestream moderator told the viewers. "They are aware of the incident and they are doing everything that they can to get this cat down from this electricity pole.”
Rob McDade, a spokesperson for the Phoenix Fire Department, said that the department makes it a priority to rescue animals, but in this case, a crew from utility provider SRP was already en route with a bucket truck.
McDade wrote in an email that the Fire Department received "well over 50 phone calls from across the nation," causing delays in their alarm room. Once the cat was rescued, the call volume subsided and their emergency system has now returned to normal operations.
Other commenters gave some supremely unhelpful suggestions for getting the cat down. Although they were occasionally mean-spirited ("Throw rocks at him," someone suggested) at other times they demonstrated flashes of sheer genius.
"If you flood the city, the water level will be closer to the top of the [pole]," Henri Ducard wrote.
One person suggested attaching a water cup to a helium balloon to give the parched cat something to drink.
The most common reaction, however, was fury at ABC15 for not doing more to bring the cat down.
The network reassured viewers that a reporter had informed utility provider SRP of the cat's situation and they were working to resolve the crisis.
MORE: ABC15 has contacted the electricity company. They are en route to try and rescue the cat.— ABC15 Arizona (@abc15) March 26, 2018
Then came the backlash to the backlash, with viewers asking, "Why should we care about this in the first place?"
Finally, kind-hearted neighbors hoisted a ladder against the pole and brought the cat down. Unfortunately, ABC15's livestream cut out just before the neighbors brought it down, prompting speculation from conspiracy-minded viewers that the whole thing had been a setup.
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