The Search to Find Ryce the Cat at 125 Second Avenue | Other Cats Remain Missing, East Village Fire

Updated 4:59 p.m.

Ryce is Still Missing from 125 Second Avenue
Ryce is Still Missing from 125 Second Avenue

The gas explosion and subsequent fire that occurred on Thursday, March 26th in the East Village resulted in two human deaths, twenty people injured and the loss of many long-time homes. The impact on animals – largely unreported in media coverage in the immediate aftermath – was significant. Eight cats and one dog were initially reported missing. Four missing cats have been found to date, all from 125 Second Avenue, neighboring building to the ultimately demolished structures at 119, 121 and 123 Second Avenue. It was only recently learned that the dog, Pepper, was rescued by firefighters from 41 East 7th Street during the fire and returned later that evening to his guardians.

11 month old cat, Ryce, remains missing from 125 Second Avenue where the four other cats were found. She has been missing for 13 days now. It is believed the cat remains in the building. 125 Second Avenue sustained damage and is still under a vacate order with supervised visits for tenants.

On the phone yesterday, Stuart Lipsky, owner-guardian to Ryce, told me she is “a six toed cat who still has a wild gene in her.” Both Stuart and the ACC (Animal Care & Control) say that there are “signs of a cat. Yet thus far no cat has appeared despite 15 humane traps with food placed amidst the various floors, according to the ACC. Stuart said, “The food [placed outside of the trap] was low.” They believe there is a cat there eating and that it is likely Ryce. A “cat-sniffing dog” was brought in yesterday with no success.

The ACC (Animal Care & Control) is overseeing the search and rescue efforts of animals in the East Village explosion and subsequent fire. The ASPCA is also involved in efforts at 125 Second Avenue. FDNY have also been heroes with regards to rescue of the cats in this building. Ryce remains at large.

Stuart and his family, wife Kayoko, and Hannah, his daughter, are worried that Ryce remains missing. Stuart has suggested to the two agencies to “use infrared to detect life heat” in order to locate Ryce who could be anywhere within the building. In fact, commenter Lynn Forsell agreed, as did Kim Freeman, a lost cat expert (more of her tips below).

This is Ryce with Muffin, his friend (window at Whiskers)
This is Ryce with Muffin, his friend who they were able to get out (window at Whiskers)

Robert Valles, Field Manager at the ACC, when contacted by phone, said, “I am optimistic that we will get [her]. We are working on it tirelessly. We are putting all our efforts into the search.”

When asked if it is possible that Ryce got outside, he said, “It is possible and [once they get access], we will start setting traps outside in the courtyard. There are signs of a cat inside the building. We are sensitive to the fact that time is of the essence.” Regarding the other missing cats, he added, “We want to do anything [we can do] to recover any of the missing animals. Animals are resilient.”

When asked specifically about thermal imaging, Valles wrote by email, “All options are on the table and are being explored with finding Ryce.” However, that is not quite the same as it being done. Forsell, who has done animal rescue, wrote in to this blog:

I wonder whether the owners can convince the authorities to use thermal imaging to assist with the search, as the Fire Department should have that capability. If the cat Ryce fled to another apartment and is holed up inside a box spring, how else will she be found? It is heartening to read that food and traps are placed at 125, but what if some of the apartment doors were closed off after being opened during the original searches?

Up until yesterday, doors to apartments throughout the building remained open and firefighters were working there. But the apartment doors were closed as of yesterday and it is unclear what will happen if Ryce had indeed run into another apartment. This is why the infrared would be helpful.

Of the efforts being done by the ACC and ASPCA, Stuart Lipsky said, “I am so grateful to them.”

Lost Cat Finder and expert Kim Freeman has written a valuable e-book for pet guardian-owners based on her experience searching for lost and missing animal friends and has rescued numerous lost cats.

On her informative video which comes with her e-book, she says “95% of the time displaced cats will hide in silence,” and recommends setting up a 250 feet search radius and to “get access to yards to do an aggressive detailed search to set up baited, humane traps.” She says a chased cat will go deeper into hiding so inform people “not to chase the cat but to call or text you.”

Freeman also suggests asking police or FDNY if they have an infrared scope to detect life heat.

When apprised of this situation with the missing animals following the East Village fire, additional advice offered by Freeman:

For specific advice, I would need profiles on each cat to be able to recommend specific search techniques for each cat personality, but in general, setting up baited humane traps as close to the cat’s usual territory as possible is the simplest option. (Tru-Catch is the brand I prefer that’s best suited for cats and their length and bailey to lean over trip plates.)

A secondary solution is to bait various areas such as McSorley’s yard (if it is within [250 feet radius]) and set up a [infrared] “wildlife camera” to take automatic motion-activated pictures 24/7 of any animal who comes by to eat.

Keep in mind that most cats have a 10-day threshold before they break cover and are ninja hiders, so just because the ASPCA says “clear” or there are no powder footprints does NOT mean there are no cats.

Most [indoor cats] will stay within 250 radius of the area, even if it’s demolished. We learned a lot about lost/displaced cat behavior in situations like Katrina.

About putting flyers on doors in the area, Freeman also noted, “Knocking on doors and flyers are good, but these cats are probably so stressed, no one will see them, even after they break cover. Still, it’s a good base to cover. That’s how I find so many cats—I cover every base and avoid making the usual assumptions people default to (like ‘cat was killed’ or ‘someone took them in’).”

Hurricane Katrina has been mentioned to me by more than a few people involved in other rescue efforts. Apparently, animals were found alive after 30 days missing (maybe longer).

Additional missing cats Sylvie, Sago and Leather-Face lived at 119 and 123 Second Avenue, buildings that caught fire later in the day, partially collapsed and were later demolished. It is more difficult to determine their fate (tho as I outlined the other day assessing the area, I believe perhaps a search behind backyards?).

Lovely Leather-Face is Missing Too
Lovely Leather-Face is Missing Too
Beloved cat Sago missing
Beloved cat Sago missing
Sylvie Still Missing
Sylvie Still Missing

The Latest at East 7th & 2nd Avenue | Missing Animals Need “Aggressive, Detailed Search April 6, 2015

More about Ryce is here.

All posts related to the missing animals and the gas explosion East Village can be found here.