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Trapped cat drives man to psych ward

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It took animal rescuers, neighbors and a concerned pet owner 15 days — and one trip to the psych ward — to save a 7-year-old kitty that was trapped in a narrow shaft in a Carroll Gardens apartment building.

The part-Persian, part-American short-haired cat — named Rumi in honor of the famed Middle Eastern poet — owes it all to Chris Muth, the man who actually ended up in a mental hospital during the ordeal.

He has the “bizarre delusion [that he] was trying to ‘save’ a cat of his friend,” medical records show.

This story was bizarre, but the “delusion” was actually quite real.

Rumi fell nearly 30 feet after his owner, Yanusz Gilewicz, brought him to Muth’s Court Street sublet on July 7. Though known for his calm demeanor, Rumi became a scaredy-cat and dashed away from the pet-sitter.

Cats will be cats, so Muth wasn’t alarmed. But after two days without seeing the puss, Muth, a 49-year-old contractor, searched his apartment and made a horrific discovery: A clump of Rumi’s black hair sat on the lip of a small hole beneath his bathroom sink that plummets from the third-floor to the ground level.

Muth immediately ripped a larger hole in his bathroom wall and made catcalls to the confined kitty, who meowed back from the bottom of the shoebox-sized duct.

But Muth couldn’t reach Rumi through his own bathroom, nor could he rescue the cat after ripping holes in a neighbor’s apartment (with permission, of course).

Muth claims he called 311, the fire department and police to help him save the cat, but couldn’t get through the bureaucracy.

That’s when this feline Baby Jessica story took a crazy turn.

After 21 straight hours of trying to rescue Rumi, Muth determined that the only way to save the cat was to break into a third apartment. But this time, the owner of that unit wasn’t home to give Muth the OK.

So in a decision that was certainly heroic but possibly criminal, Muth broke into the unit and barricaded himself inside as he attempted to rescue Rumi.

“After 60 hours stuck down there, I thought the cat was going to die — otherwise, I wouldn’t have panicked like I did,” Muth said.

But before he could reach that cat, authorities talked Muth out of the apartment — and into the psych ward at Long Island College Hospital.

It proved easier for Muth to earn his freedom than Rumi, who was still trapped in the duct when Muth was released six days later.

According to animal rescue experts, Rumi’s confinement proved to be one of the field’s greatest riddles.

“This was a very difficult cat rescue because there was no way to maneuver,” said Mike Pastore, director of field operations for the Center for Animal Care and Control. “There was no way to reach the cat and because of the length of time, I was getting worried that the cat would pass away.”

Well-meaning amateurs like Gilewicz and Muth — who continued to try to save Rumi after getting out of the psych ward — shared the same fears, Pastore said.

Concerned building residents thought they were keeping the imprisoned kitty alive by dropping food down the hole, but they were actually making it harder for experts to save Rumi.

“Because he wasn’t too hungry, it wasn’t really enticing for him to go into the devices we had lowered down there,” Pastore said.

So rescuers stopped feeding Rumi, who after 15 days in solitary confinement in the bowels of the former church, wandered into a lasso dangled by an Animal Care and Control expert on July 21.

Rumi emerged from the shaft filthy, antsy, and ill with a minor respiratory infection, but the tough kitty wasn’t much worse for the wear.

“I knew he’d survive, Gilewicz said. “This cat is a fighter.”

Depite the consequences of his actions, Muth says he’d do it all over again.

“Was going into the apartment and making holes a bad idea? I don’t think so,” he said. “I can fix holes, but I can’t bring a cat back to life.”

Updated 5:11 pm, July 24, 2008
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Reasonable discourse

mitch from gowanus says:
is this for real?

how does sarah portlock find this stuff

good work, how long before she takes over?
July 24, 2008, 4:25 pm
Howtobeapsych from Brooklyn says:
I love the quote from the psychiatric evaluation.

If you ever want to be a psychiatrist, here's my quick guide:

1) Everything the patient says is wrong. Do whatever you want - being a psychiatrist is fun!

2) If it turns out you're wrong, then blame the patient. Say there's an article in the Brooklyn Paper documenting that a patient was telling the truth and was actually distressed by an external event - then you say "the patient was not credible." Remember - being a psychiatrist is fun because you're never wrong. It's always the patient!

So that's it. Good luck in your new career as a psychiatrist! And yes, this is REALLY how many of them are. They are THAT obtuse.
July 25, 2008, 1:29 am
Jen from Albany, NY says:
Brooklyn speaks the truth...any true narcissist ought to be a shrink.
July 25, 2008, 9:07 am
mike from carroll gardens says:
Just further proof that cat owners are crazy, but psychiatrists are even crazier.
July 25, 2008, 10:15 am
MA from Carroll Gardens says:
Every one loves a great story on a rescue of a pet....the owner of the cat and Mr. Muth were NOT the heroes to this traumatic incident. Animal Control Mike Pastore, and his team plus Deborah of SaveKitty.com and the residents sprung to action in the rescue. The owner of the cat had no involvement and showed no interest. Mr Muth on the other hand took matters on his own for his own glory....I should know...I live in the building and was the one that called Mike of NYCACC. His name given to me by Deborah of SaveKitty.com. Mike and Deborah are the heroes.
July 25, 2008, 11:23 am
Steve from Hells Kitchen says:
You need to get a lawyer and sue the people that put you in the mental hospital. This has become a national story and now people all over the country think you are a mental patient when there is nothing wrong with you. Do a search of your name on google and see how this has damaged your reputation--and that will be on the internet forever.
July 25, 2008, 3:05 pm
JJALex from Cobble Hill says:
This son of a —— IS delusional. I have very close friends who live in that building and they are always saying that this crazy guy is always talking about conspriracies and bizarre things...OH...btw...although he tried to save this cat...which he didn't...animal rescue did...he was responsible for killing his own girlfriends dog by not paying attention and letting it get run over by a car in front of the buidling. CREEPY, CREEPY GUY!
July 25, 2008, 6:17 pm
blahblah from Red Hook says:
JJALex said it correctly: This guy is delusional. I have friends in that building too and this guy didn't call animal rescue for several days. Instead he illegally goes into another apartment, bangs several holes in the wall, damages two places, threatens the super physically and verbally after he couldn't rescue the cat and gets hauled to the psych ward.

He should've stayed a few more days, and should really, REALLY take his meds.
July 25, 2008, 7:31 pm
MA from Carroll Gardens says:
Ben Muessig...I am disappointed with your article. You did not get the full story before printing this stretched piece. If you are looking for sensationalizalism rather than the truth then you should get a job and write for the Enquire or NY Post...you may have caused more damage to Mr Muth and the caring residents of CG...
July 26, 2008, 12:53 am
Max from Midwood says:
This man is an opportunist. He has never owned anything.. all he does is live off of people. this story is a lie from the beginning. he never had an apartment in that building.. he was working on one of the apartments and decided to squat and allow others to squat there without permission from the owner.. i was told that he mentioned while he was in the hospital that he hope the news would pick up this story so he could get attention towards a project he is trying to get sponsors for.
this man's whole life it centered around himself and at the cost of everyone that he comes in contacted with.
he has caused a lot of pain.
And believe me he is not this great big pet lover.
his own dog died because of his own negligence. and he wanted to sue others for that as well.
Just know that you have interviewed and made a certified loon a fake hero.

Please stick to reporting real news.
July 27, 2008, 12:39 am
john from CG says:
you who wrote this article have been fooled by muth. it is not even worth the attempt to tell you why. Wake up..
July 27, 2008, 11:23 pm
Crazy from brooklyn says:
Some say his girlfriend Maryanne (MA) should be committed too!
July 30, 2008, 8:48 am
wolfqueen2 from nc usa says:
What a wonderful person. Most people would not go to any trouble, much less this length to help an animal. I say BRAVO to Muth.
July 31, 2008, 7:39 am
wolfqueen2 from nc usa says:
Guess I should read all comments before I post. If all that you say is true, I have no words to express my anger. I am just glad the cat is ok. As a animal lover I would like to thank the real heroes of this story.
July 31, 2008, 7:45 am
wolfqueen2 from usa says:
Guess I should have read the other comments before I posted. If what they say is true shame on you Mr Muth. Animal control should have been the first person you called. Poor cat. I am glad he is alright, and you Mr Muth should get a life, and a real job.
July 31, 2008, 7:49 am
Michael from Park Slope says:
When I first read this story, I found it sweet and charming...TOO sweet and charming. Muth's "search" for this cat seemed to be a "little" out of sync with credibility. I suspected a hoax and was awaiting a follow-up. It would appear that I received the awaited and expected follow-up via some of these comments.
July 31, 2008, 11:49 am
Bill from Nebraska says:
I can't speak about the gentleman's sanity, but if my cat fell down a shaft like that, I'd have the sledgehammer out in about 2 minutes to get him out. Like he said, you can repair "stuff", but you can't bring back a lost life.
Aug. 26, 2008, 2:18 pm
coolguy says:
what a badass
Aug. 29, 2008, 9:59 pm
Maryellen from Kentucky says:
I have a semi-wild cat that I have taken care of for l6 years who somehow got into the the crawl space of my garage. She is terrified of my other cats and they chase her at times. I am sure they cornered her and she went into a hole, but I have not found it. I discovered her in my daily cat count at end of a day. It is a long climb up the extension ladder as this is a very old house (High ceilings in garage). Two days now and it is maddening. I have given no food. Have water up there as it is the worst month for moving into a crawl space (August). Have a ladder at opening and have cut a large hole in front facet. I have to crawl over the beams as I discovered that sheetrock is not meant to hold humans up (Only Cats). Fortunately one leg was still on the ladder. She will not come down the ladder on which I have a long long board attached. She won't come down the board I have in the large hole in the facet. She cries when I call her. I have put water up in the crawl space but not food. Food is 3/4 way down the ladder. Her name is Sweetie Pie and believe me she is not a sweetie pie. I plan to get cat nip tomorrow and cover board on ladder with it. I understand they have to have a gene to enjoy it so with my luck, I'm sure she doesn't have it. After that beyond ripping out the entire ceiling I am at a loss. She runs across the ceiling and hides in the facets and I cannot get to her there. The fire department here was less than civil. After reading about cats trapped for 15 days, I am quite saddened. I don't believe my 67 year old legs will last that long climbing that ladder several times a day. Just wanted to vent as most people are quite alone when something of this sort happens. We need a category of workers called Helpers.
Aug. 31, 2008, 11:29 pm
Maryellen from Kentucky says:
Cat came down. She is back in her little house. Catnip did the trick. Thanks for a place to vent. Really like the web site. have it bookmarked. All of you are very interesting.
Sept. 1, 2008, 11:13 am
Jake from Bushwick says:
I just met Chris Muth on a subway. He started talking to me the entire ride. I couldn't tell if he was nice or a con man. After reading these comments I'd go with con man. He mentioned a famous german art painting he had and was trying to get it restored. It was apparently worth 2.8 million or some such. He gave me his contact information, and I suspect if I contacted him he'd start asking me for money. Anyone else ever hear this from him?
June 24, 2010, 10:08 pm

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