“River,” the injured black cat found stranded on the ice-covered Arkansas River Thursday afternoon, has a name of his own — and a home.
His real name is Bagheera, after the black panther in “Jungle Book.”
“He looks just like him,” Justin Long, one of his owners, said Saturday.
Authorities first feared someone had thrown Bagheera from a moving vehicle on Kellogg, but it turns out the most likely explanation is much less ominous.
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“We think he tried to hitch a ride to work” with a neighbor on Thursday morning, Long said.
Bagheera, who is eight months old, was adopted from the Humane Society. A few months ago, his owners went to visit their mother’s house.
When they arrived, Bagheera jumped out from beneath the car. Apparently, he had crawled into the undercarriage and then held on while they drove.
A few days ago, Bagheera went missing. He’s mostly an indoor cat, Long said, but sometimes he likes to go outside.
He darted outside Wednesday night with the family’s other cat when the dogs went outside to take care of business — and never returned. Long now thinks Bagheera climbed into a spot on a neighbor’s car and went for an unwitting ride, falling out when the car hit a bump on Kellogg.
“We’re guessing he just tried to get to safety and went off the bridge” on the flyover, Long said.
He landed on the ice and broke his left rear leg.
It’s still unknown how long Bagheera was on the ice before a motorist passing on the Kellogg flyover spotted him. The motorist called 911 shortly after 4 p.m. Thursday.
He didn’t try to fight or flee when two firefighters approached him in a rescue boat and plucked him from the ice a short time later. The broken leg left him helpless. He was also on the verge of hypothermia and he had other injuries as well.
The Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Hospital of Wichita found a microchip, which helped them find the cat’s owners.
Bagheera’s back home with his owners, but Long said the cat’s leg was so badly broken it will be amputated on Tuesday. Generous Wichitans have donated about $1,200 toward Bagheera’s care, for which his family is grateful.
That’s just about what the veterinary bills will turn out to be, Long said.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “We would definitely not be able to afford everything that has to go on” as part of his treatment.
For now, the family is trying to keep Bagheera calm and off his broken leg.
“Our two-year-old daughter is very grateful to have him back and loves to give him kisses,” Long said.
“He will now be an inside only cat and has been grounded from going to explore the great outdoors,” a Facebook post by the animal rescue organization Beauties and Beasts said. “What an amazing act of love from so many to save an injured kitty stranded on a icy river.”