It's not an award any pet lover would be proud of, and if you're fastidious about not mixing your darks and lights, you'll probably have a conniption fit.
But like it or not, Daryl Humdy of Oakland, Calif. has been awarded a top prize by a pet insurance company after his Siberian Forest cat, "Natasha" accidentally went through an entire wash cycle that lasted 35 minutes, a 'cat'astrophe by any means.
Miraculously, though, Natasha made it out alive.
But the six-month-old feline did suffer severe hypothermia and a trip to the emergency animal hospital, earning Natasha the "Most Unusual Claim Award," by the Brea-based Veterinary Pet Insurance. The company bills itself as the oldest and largest pet insurance provider in the country.
“My roommate was loading his laundry and left the lid to the washing machine open while he went to the next room to grab more clothes,” Daryl Humdy said in a statement, because he was unavaillable on Tuesday to go on camera with NBC Bay Area. “He came back, threw his clothes in, and shut the lid to the washing machine without realizing that Natasha had jumped into it while he had been away.”
Humdy arrived home just as his roommate was pulling out his clothes to find a soaked and visibly shaken kitten. Humdy whisked his kitty to the emergency animal hospital.
At the hospital, Natasha was treated for hypothermia and shock, according to the insurance company, which didn't immediately provide how much the medical bills came to.
But Humdy's employer, the online gaming company Zynga Inc., offers the insurance at a discounted rate as a voluntary employee benefit.
The veterinarian even praised Natasha as the most pleasant-smelling pet they had ever treated.
Natasha has since made a full recovery and is as active as ever around the house – except when she’s near the laundry room.
“Since I brought Natasha home as a newborn kitten, she had always been very curious about the washing machine,” Humdy said. “She would always take a peek inside, but I never thought she would jump in. My roommate and I are much more cautious around the house now, because we would hate for her to have to go through something like that again.”
The pet insurance company noted there were more than 80,000 claims received in December. But hers was chosen as the most unusual of the bunch. Honorable mentions, though, went to a dog that that sustained blunt trauma after being chased down and kicked by a mule, a poodle that was hit by a bicycle, and a St. Bernard that swallowed a holiday ornament.
All pets considered for the award made full recoveries and received insurance reimbursements for eligible expenses.
As the most unusual claim submitted in December, Natasha will be in the running for the 2013 VPI Hambone Award. Other nominees include "Chance" the Labrador retriever who was butted by a goat, "Ariel" the Himalayan kitten who was trapped underneath her pet parent’s garage door, and "Annie" the Yorkshire terrier that was stranded outdoors during one of the worst storms in North American history.
The VPI Hambone Award is named in honor of a VPI-insured dog that got stuck in a refrigerator and ate an entire Thanksgiving ham while waiting for someone to rescue him.
The dog was eventually found, with a licked-clean ham bone and a mild case of hypothermia. This quirky title was first awarded in 2009 to "Lulu," a hungry English bulldog who swallowed 15 baby pacifiers, a bottle cap and a piece of a basketball.
The company has used the VPI Hambone Award and these unusual pet insurance claims to educate the public about the unexpected mishaps that can affect household pets.
To see more crazy pet stories, click on the VPI Hambone website.