December 07, 2009 06:59 PM

The last time Sandy LaPierre saw her cat, Smoka, was on Aug. 9 when a fire ripped through the apartment building where she lived in Franklin, Ohio.

“Whenever my neighbor kicked the door in to get me out, she hid under the bed and that was the last I’ve seen of her,” she told the local NBC affiliate.

LaPierre and the community are now stunned that Smoka has been found a whopping 26 days after the disaster. The lucky feline was discovered Sept. 4 when a crew came to clean up rubble at the site of three-story building and one of the workers spotted the cat’s head under a pile of rubble.

“We was digging through it and we found that cat 16 feet underneath the debris pile, in the burnt ashes and wood,” Clarence Witte, owner of Stark Wrecking Company tells PEOPLE Pets. “And we had already done run over the top of it a dozen times with the excavator – and that thing weighs about 40,000 pounds. I don’t know how that cat survived underneath all that stuff.”

Witte, who says that the 1-year-old feline “looked dead” when she was pulled from the rubble but started moving within minutes of being freed, believes the cat was underneath the rubble for the entire 26-day period, without food or water. The top floor of the building, where LaPierre lived with the cat, was completely lost in the fire.

“It’s just a miracle,” says Witte. “That cat had willpower, I guess, and just did not want to die.”

Smoka was immediately taken to a vet where they found the cat was dehydrated, had a small infection in one eye but was otherwise in good health, Witte says.

Now reunited with her owner, Smoka is “doing great,” says Witte, who adds that LaPierre is staying at a nearby apartment but needs to find a new one that accepts pets. “You would never know that cat was laid underneath here that long. But she said it’s eating everything, she said it’s eating like crazy.”

See more amazing survival stories on PEOPLE Pets:
Mac the Dog Is a ‘Walking Miracle’ After 40-Ft. Plunge Off Cliff
Stranger Braves Stormy Waters to Save Dog Blown Off Pier

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