Ross, who lives in Bonita Springs in southwest Florida, had evacuated to his parents’ place nearby to shelter from the storm. His house was “10 feet underwater,” and his parents have a “fortress” built to weather hurricanes, he said.
As he looked outside, he was stunned to see a cat sitting there all alone. He couldn’t fathom leaving it to fend for itself.
“The storm surge had rushed up quite a bit at that point,” Ross recalled, adding that the incident took place Wednesday afternoon around 2 p.m., shortly before the Category 4 hurricane made landfall in southwest Florida with winds of 15o mph.
Having lived in the area all his life, he’s familiar with hurricanes, but said this one is “absolutely terrible.”
The cat, Ross said, appeared “terrified.”
Knee-deep in floodwater, Ross trudged toward the cat, pushing against the powerful current. Once he got close enough, he scooped up the abandoned animal and held it tightly against his chest as he brought it to safety.
Ross’s mother, Marybeth Ross, captured the rescue on camera. In the background of the video, she is heard remarking: “Look at Michael saving the kitty. Awww.”
Ross’s girlfriend shared the clip on Twitter, and the internet quickly took note. The video has been viewed more than 1.1 million times, and breathless comments have poured in.
“I’m bawling my eyes out,” another wrote.
“I’m sorry, Megan, but he is everyone’s boyfriend now,” someone tweeted.
People also shared similar cat rescue stories: “Hurricane cats are an old Florida tradition. We picked ours up a couple years ago during Irma. Cannot imagine this house without the Tripod,” one person commented, sharing a photo of a cat.
While most people praised Ross’s rescue effort (the most common comment is: “Marry him.”), others expressed concern for the many animals who might not make it out of the storm alive.
“This kitty was saved, but I daren’t think of how many others won’t be,” one person tweeted. “It breaks my heart.”
Ross, who works as a consultant at a software company, said he shares the same fear. Still, he’s relieved that at least one stranded pet is now safe and sound.
The cat is currently hunkering down with Ross and his family, and the plan is to keep it if they are unable to find its owners.
In the meantime, his newfound furry friend has a roof over its head and a loving home.
Most importantly, the cat “looks healthy,” Ross said.