The Cat Who Got Stuck In The Dryer

Case Study: The Cat Who Got Stuck in the Dryer

Dr. Kerri Nelson

Feb 29, 2024

Call & Speak with a doctor Open 24/7, Even Holidays!

Walk in today for:




Point-of-Care Ultrasound


Urgent Care




Diagnostics + Testing


End-of-Life Care




Treatment + Hospitalization

Meet Penny. She’s a 12-year-old cat owned by a wonderful pet mommy named Katie. Penny’s the star of this incredible story—a case filled with tragedy, recovery, and a load of bumps along the way!

Full disclosure: Penny’s mom Katie is a longtime friend of Dr. Kerri Nelson, our medical contributor on this blog. And the kind of care that Penny received is indicative of how we do things at Veterinary Emergency Group (VEG). It just so happened that this feline was a long-time friend, so Katie knew just where to go!


Penny tested out one of her nine lives when her owner Katie was tossing a large comforter in the dryer. The curious cat must’ve seen the bedding and thought it looked like a comfy place. Did she hop in? Did she get tangled up in the comforter? Only Penny knows, but what followed changed all of their lives.

After about 20 minutes, Katie checked to see if the comforter was dry and made the shocking discovery. Penny had been inside the dryer the entire time! The comforter must have dulled any sound that would have let Katie know of Penny’s plight. The panicked owner acted fast and rushed Penny to VEG Denver Tech Center.


Katie and her roommate Jacob went to VEG immediately. Upon arrival, Penny’s temperature was 109ºF. For context, a feline’s normal temperature is 99.5 – 102.5ºF, and a temp >105.8ºF is considered heatstroke. Penny’s fever was already beyond that range, and then it became even too high for the thermometer to read.

Meanwhile, Dr. Nelson had a day off so she caught a Denver Broncos game. But when she received a frantic text from her friend Katie, she left the game immediately and headed over to VEG.


Katie was understandably shaken, but there was another concern—What would these people think? She says, “Obviously I was pretty horrified at what happened. But everyone at VEG was really kind about everything.”

Katie soon realized that the staff at VEG aka VEGgies, are non-judgmental. Their focus stays completely on care for the patient and to ease the nerves of the pet owner. What’s more, Katie may not have known what to expect when she came to VEG, but she says, “(VEGgies) have a protocol for these things and everyone knew exactly what to do.”

At VEG, pet owners are allowed to stay with their pets throughout treatment. This was a huge comfort to Katie and Jacob. Another plus was VEG’s open-concept ER. Thanks to the hospital’s open floor plan, another pet owner in the hospital could see how shaken Katie and Jacob were and came over and sat with them.

The vet staff continued to work on Penny. She was in a state of shock, panting, and displaying only open-mouth breathing. Her heart rate was 240 beats per minute; the normal feline heart rate is between 140-220 bpm. She presented with bright red mucous membranes, also called injected mucous membranes. She was neurologically abnormal and had gone blind in both eyes. Dr. Nelson explains, “When cats experience a traumatic brain injury, they can have what’s called cortical blindness.”

The VEG DTC staff treated Penny for shock and cooled her down. But cats with heatstroke can swing in the other direction, and Penny became hypothermic. When Dr. Nelson arrived at VEG, Penny’s temperature was extremely low, approx. 89ºF, and her blood pressure and heart rate also read dangerously low.


The news that Penny was blind hit hard. Jacob wanted to make sure Penny knew that he and Katie were there, and he had a plan. We’ll let him convey what happened next!

Jacob: “I know this is going to sound weird, but Penny really likes the beard oil I put on. She smells it and just goes crazy for it.” He went home and “put on a heavier dose than usual.” He went back to the hospital and to Penny’s side, but received very little reaction. He got closer and rubbed his face against Penny’s. Jacob’s idea proved more helpful than he’d imagined. Penny’s heart rate jumped up 40 more beats per minute! She picked her head up and everyone looked around like, “What just happened?!”

Penny’s heart rate was now within a normal range. Additionally, her temp rose a much-needed 5º within an hour.

A staff member set up a couch for Katie and Jacob and they camped out at VEG for the duration of Penny’s hospitalization. They spent about 12 hours a day at VEG, and were welcomed to stay overnight. VEGgies offered them food, snacks, and they got to set up a makeshift office outside of Penny’s cage. When Penny came off of oxygen, she could sit in her owner’s lap. Katie said, “It’s such a difference between being home and worrying, versus being there and sitting with her.”


The next morning, Penny was neurologically back to normal, she regained her vision, and in keeping with her love of food, she was actually eating. But she wasn’t out of the woods. She had prolonged clotting times, which required transfusions. She also had elevated liver enzymes and an acute kidney injury. Because of this, Penny stayed in the hospital for six days.

The VEG team showed collaboration at its finest: Dr. Nelson consulted with VEG’s Critical Care Specialist and Educator Anusha Balakrishnan, and other VEG doctors to ensure the best recovery possible. Penny’s kidney values had a bit of a rollercoaster ride, spiking up and then finally going back down and normalizing.

As for Katie and Jacob, they were invested in not just Penny’s care, but they were able to help others too. Says Jacob, “We got to see a lot of other pets come in with owners in distress, and we were able to help them get through it.”


At last, Katie and Jacob took Penny home. But as with any serious medical emergency, things can happen out of anyone’s control. One of the burns on Penny’s tail did not heal and became infected. A tail amputation was necessary, so back to the ER she went. VEG was able to keep Penny calm enough to get an I.V. catheter inserted. But even with an amputation, this case was still a win.

Dr. Nelson: “Seeing her come back after being in such a state of shock and really thinking we were going to lose her—and then she comes back, was really amazing to see!”


After an incredulous ordeal, and with lots of expert medical care and TLC, Penny is back to being the queen of her home! VEG believes that keeping people with their pets throughout an emergency increases the chances of a successful recovery. In fact, we saw it happen in real-time with Penny. Katie and Jacob played an active role in their pet’s care in the welcoming VEG environment. They even joined in on team huddles with the Denver Tech Center veterinary staff.

It’s simple. VEG promotes a positive environment. We don’t judge. Emergencies happen. What’s more, pet owners are around us all the time, and we’ve found that it’s best to work with them on the care of their pet.

Dr. Nelson says it best: “The biggest thing I loved about VEG was that because owners are around us all the time, it brings the focus back to the pet. It makes us work collaboratively and understand what [the customer] is going through, rather than make judgments.”

When emergencies happen to your cat or any kind of pet, call VEG or come right into any of our 24-hour veterinary ERs. You’ll notice the VEG difference right away and be glad you chose us to care for your pet!

Penny The Cat