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Seattle cat rescued from city drainpipe wins Hambone Award for most unusual #petstory

Nationwide’s 14th annual contest recognizes uncommon pet insurance claims

Rafa, a Siberian mix cat from Seattle whose misadventures landed him 45 feet down a water-filled drainpipe, survived his harrowing “tail” and has won the 14th annual Hambone Award, which recognizes the most unusual pet insurance claim of the year. Nationwide®, the nation’s largest provider of pet health insurance, presents the award annually to bring awareness to the unique and just plain wild things that can happen to pets – and how pet insurance plays a role in caring for them.

Rafa’s escape from home for an outdoor adventure quickly turned frightening when he found himself trapped far down a drainpipe, sitting in neck-high icy water with a storm quickly approaching. When Rafa’s family heard meows coming from the sewer grate, they immediately called for backup and soon had help from the fire department, animal rescue, Seattle Public Utilities, Roto-Rooter and several dedicated neighbors planning, digging and cutting into the pipe. After a successful extraction and reunion with his family, Rafa was treated for severe hypothermia and other complications, spending a week in the ICU before making a full recovery. 

Having pet health insurance helped Rafa’s pet parents, Jose and Susan, with decisions regarding the life-saving treatment Rafa required. “If we hadn’t had insurance, we would have had to consider every single measure and weigh it out,” Susan said. “In this case, we could just be like ‘No, throw the whole kitchen sink at this problem. Do whatever has to be done,’” she adds.

“The love of animals is one thing that seems to unite us, and that worked to Rafa’s benefit,” said Dr. Jules Benson, Nationwide’s Chief Veterinary Officer. “Neighbors, city agencies, private companies – they all came together to get Rafa out of a dangerous situation. And then his veterinary team got him back to health. What a great team effort for a beloved pet!”

Nationwide hosted a public vote October 4-17, 2022, to determine a grand prize winner and two runners-up from a field of 12 finalists. Rafa’s family receives a grand prize package that includes a $1,000 gift card, a $1,000 donation in their name to an approved pet charity of their choice, and the coveted Hambone Award trophy.

The second and third place finishers were Russell, a mixed breed dog from Granada Hills, California, who cracked several front teeth after running full speed into a concrete patio step while enroute to greet his human sister and Rex, a Shih Tzu from Livonia, Michigan, who swallowed a wishbone. The families of Russell and Rex each receive a $500 gift card plus a $500 donation in their names to an approved pet charity of their choice.

The Hambone Award was originally named after a dog who ate an entire Thanksgiving ham while stuck in a refrigerator. Visit this video playlist to check out the stories of all 12 nominees in this year’s contest.

Finalists for this year’s award were determined following a review of nearly 3.4 million claims submitted by Nationwide members over a recent 12-month span from across the company’s database of more than 1.1 million insured pets. All nominated pets have recovered and received reimbursements for eligible veterinary expenses from Nationwide® pet insurance.

To explore pet health insurance coverage for dogs, cats and many other kinds of pets, visit PetInsurance.com.