A Cedar Rapids woman is crediting her cat with possibly saving her life from exposure to carbon monoxide.

For the last week, or longer, Jeanie Probst says her black and white cat named Oreo made a screeching racket every time the furnace in her apartment kicked on. The cat would also constantly look at the heating registers while making odd sounds. She says she couldn’t figure out the problem…until she finally called MidAmerican Energy to test for poisonous CO fumes.

Probst tells TV9 that she and her boyfriend had headaches and slight flu-like symptoms during the same period of time. Those are some of the signs of mild CO poisoning. But she wasn’t sure something was really wrong.

Still, the constant agitation of her cat that convinced her to call for a furnace check. Probst said when the technician came to her apartment to check for the odorless, colorless gas she told him how her cat was acting.

“He didn’t believe me at first, he wanted me to run the furnace with the front off. That’s when Oreo got back on the chair, nose to the vent and did his noise again,” Probst said.

Probst said the technician kept checking and eventually discovered a blocked flue. Carbon monoxide gas was getting back into the apartment instead of properly venting outside. Probst said one other odd thing is she has another dog and cat. Neither of those animals reacted in a strange way during this last week.

One feline behavior expert tells TV9 cats have a much keener sense of smell than people. However, dogs are much more sensitive than cats.

Dr. Bonnie Beaver, a veterinarian at Texas A&M University, said there is another possible explanation for Oreo’s agitation. Dr. Beaver said “this cat may be one that’s more susceptible to a headache and because it didn’t feel good it started meowing because it was not comfortable.”

Whatever the explanation, Oreo’s getting extra treats…but he won’t be expected to have to do the job alone again. Probst said she is getting a carbon monoxide detector.

The Texas A&M professor contacted by TV9 said there’s no scientific way to prove a cat was acting “heroically.” Dr. Beaver said she hears such stories occasionally.

Mid-American Energy said the technician who found the carbon monoxide leak also heard the cat’s visible reaction when the leaky furnace was running. The technician said he had never seen anything like it.