Hilary Swank Recalls Rescuing Cat in the Aftermath of 9/11: ‘It Was Missing Its Person’ (Exclusive)

“Who knows how long it didn't have food," Swank remembers on Thursday's episode of 'Literally! With Rob Lowe'

<p>Jamie McCarthy/WireImage</p>

Jamie McCarthy/WireImage

Hilary Swank is remembering a cat that will always hold a place in her heart.

The actress, 49, is sharing her memories of volunteering with the ASPCA during the aftermath of 9/11 on the SiriusXM podcast Literally! with Rob Lowe, which will be released on Thursday. While discussing her love for animals, Swank recalls rescuing pets that owners could not get to following the tragedy.

“People would go over to the piers over on West Street and they would say, ‘my dog Simpson, or my goldfish or my rabbit,’ or whatever it is, and ‘this is my address, this is my apartment,’ and I'd get these cards and we'd go,” Swank says in a PEOPLE exclusive clip of the podcast.

<p>John Sciulli/Variety via Getty; Jon Kopaloff/WireImage</p> Hilary Swank and Rob Lowe

John Sciulli/Variety via Getty; Jon Kopaloff/WireImage

Hilary Swank and Rob Lowe

Working with animals was nothing new for Swank — she says she had been volunteering at the ASPCA prior to 9/11. But after 9/11, there were many dangers and obstacles in the way. In addition to the possibility of a building collapsing or catching fire, no elevators or technology were working.

“If their animal was on the 50th floor, you were walking up to the 50th floor,” she tells Rob Lowe, her former brother-in-law. “And we'd get up there and we brought cats down, we brought turtles down, we brought fish down, we brought lots of dogs. I think a couple hamsters.”

She continues, “God, but I mean, these apartment buildings, they were missing windows, and the trauma that these animals went through living there for, you know, some a few days and some a few weeks.”

Related: Hilary Swank Admits 'Sleepless Nights Are Hard' with Twins But Will Look Back Fondly on Them (Exclusive)

Lowe, 59, then reminds the Ordinary Angels star of a memorable story she once told him about what he describes as a particularly “terrified” cat.

“It was going crazy,” the mom-of-two remembers. “It was missing its person — who knows how long it didn't have food. The front windows were blown out. It was smoky. It was dirty. It was dangerous.”

She later reveals she had to get creative to finally bring the cat to safety: “It kept getting out of a blanket, so we finally figured out how to put it in a pillowcase, knew it could still breathe through it, got them back to their owners.”

<p>Todd Owyoung/NBC/Getty </p> Hilary Swank during an interview on 'The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon' on February 14, 2024.

Todd Owyoung/NBC/Getty

Hilary Swank during an interview on 'The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon' on February 14, 2024.

Despite the stress both Swank and the pets endured, she says nothing compares to finding the furry friends’ families.

“Reuniting these animals with their owners was such a gift. They were just so happy,” she says.

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