By Kathleen MacKinnon

The Myth – Cats and Nine Lives

Ever wonder where the notion came from that “cats have nine lives?” This myth is usually attributed to a cat’s amazing ability to escape life-threatening situations – especially the ability to land on their feet unscathed after falling from high places. Cats are naturally supple and amazingly swift. This enables them to get “in and out” of situations that tend to be hazardous to other creatures. Cats are also very resilient. Time and time again we’ve seen cats endure medical and psychological challenges and somehow survive – especially if they have Good Samaritans and Guardian Angels looking out for them.

Whether you are superstitious or not about cats having nine lives, most of us have seen or heard about cats who have defied the odds.  Here are a few stories about some recent SPCA rescue kitties that have overcome many challenges, and lived to tell about it!

Nine Lives + Good Samaritans + Guardian Angels = Lived to Tell About It!

Meet Shelby

So far, Shelby has used up at least three of her nine lives. First, she survived whatever situation she was born into and ended up at a local shelter with her siblings. At least at a shelter, Shelby had a  chance of finding a good home. However, when it was discovered  that she had a large abscess in and around her right ear, possibly  from a bite wound, Shelby was slated to be put to sleep.

Luckily, her second of nine lives came into play when a shelter employee contacted a Good Samaritan she knew, Sherry, hoping she would take Shelby into her care. Sherry agreed to help Shelby and took her to a local veterinarian for what she thought would be a couple weeks of antibiotics. Needing a foster home for Shelby, the veterinarian’s office turned to a client who they knew, Katie, who fostered kittens. Of course, Katie couldn’t turn little Shelby away – especially since everyone thought Shelby would be “good as new” in no time. However, three months later, Shelby’s infection was still  raging despite numerous attempts to clear up her infection.

Sadly, the Good Samaritan, Sherry, who was trying to save Shelby’s life, had limited financial resources to further investigate what care she needed. Shelby’s third life came into play when Katie wouldn’t give up on her! Katie turned to the rescue organization she had volunteered with in the past – SPCA NOVA. Once in our care, a veterinarian we work with examined Shelby’s inner ear with a scope and discovered a huge polyp which had shattered her ear drum and prevented antibiotics from reaching the infected area. Shelby underwent surgery to remove the polyp – and has survived, once again, with flying colors!

Shelby needed two weeks of hospitalization following her surgery to monitor her recovery, clean her wound, administer antibiotics and  make sure she didn’t “bounce around” as a normal kitten would!  Shelby has made a remarkable recovery. She is deaf in her right ear but other than that she is a happy, healthy kitty.

Through all of this, Shelby has proven to be very resilient. She is a sweet, loving kitty who got along great with the two cats and two HUGE Great Danes in her foster home. And, amazingly, shortly after posting Shelby on our website, she was adopted by a wonderful person who has a GREAT DANE-mix. Shelby did so well with the  Great Danes in her foster home that we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pair her up with a canine buddy. So, after using up many lives, Shelby finally has a forever home of her own!  Thanks to everyone who supported Shelby through our Guardian Angel Program.

Meet Shadow

We figure Shadow has easily used up two of his nine lives! He was rescued from the great outdoors by a Good Samaritan, Lisa, who noticed Shadow, along with his four siblings, living under a trailer at a local business. The employees at this business had been feeding an adult cat when they suddenly realized she had four kittens stashed away. After contacting SPCA NOVA and following our instructions, Lisa plucked the kittens out from under the trailer one-by-one, put them in a box, and brought them to a local veterinarian where we arranged for a veterinary technician, Angie, to bottle feed them. They easily learned to drink from a bottle and to lap up watered-down canned kitten food. All five kittens were examined by a veterinarian and appeared very healthy.

However, late one night, Angie called me to say that one of the  kittens, Shadow, was having trouble breathing. She didn’t think he would “make it through the night” without emergency care. When I asked her what she thought was wrong she speculated that he may have aspirated food or water into his lungs. Angie’s suspicions were correct.

After whisking him off to an emergency veterinary hospital, a veterinarian examined him, took x-rays and determined that Shadow had developed pneumonia probably after aspirating food or water into his lungs. The veterinarian said Shadow’s prognosis was not very good – weighing in at just one pound, his lungs were so tiny and his ability to fight off infection was not very good. We decided that this little guy deserved a chance and authorized overnight care. This included keeping him in an oxygen cage to help his breathing and administering intravenous antibiotics and other medications to help him breathe.

To our delight, Shadow proved to be a very strong little guy! After surviving the first 24 hours in emergency care, we knew he had a chance to live. Angie was able to nurse him back to health and closely monitor his care by bringing him to work with her every day. And, at night, she kept him in a cage in her baby’s room with a “baby monitor” close by so she could listen to his breathing. Funny that Shadow found himself in a baby’s room sharing a “baby monitor” with Angie’s infant son. While Shadow has recovered about 80%, he still continues to fight upper respiratory infections and has a partially collapsed lung. What Shadow needs now are a few Guardian Angels to watch over him!

Meet Frankie

We’re not sure how many lives Frankie has used up other than “quite a few!” Frankie came into our care when he was 10 years old during one of the infamous blizzards of 2010. A Good Samaritan, Eve, had seen enough! Frankie had been living outside his family’s home for quite a while. They were apparently feeding him, but not providing any shelter. This Good Samaritan took it upon herself to bring Frankie inside her home as a temporary safe haven. After consulting with SPCA NOVA, she talked with her neighbors who agreed to turn Frankie over to our care. Luckily, her sister, Julie, was available to foster Frankie.

Nearly two years later, he’s still in our care after a series of challenging medical issues. Shortly after coming into our care, we discovered that Frankie has inflammatory bowel disease and chronic ear infections. While under anesthesia to have his teeth cleaned, Frankie’s veterinarian gently cleaned his ears. After waking up from the anesthesia, we were shocked to find out that Frankie had developed severe neurological problems – he had difficulty walking, eating and drinking. His head was titled to one side and his “third eye lids” were droopy.

After a couple of months of rehabilitation under a neurologist’s care, Frankie’s condition greatly improved. He started walking better, eating better, purring, snuggling with his foster mom and getting curious about life again. But then his improvement reached a plateau and Frankie’s ears started bothering him again.

Following a CT scan, the neurologist concluded that Frankie had a very serious deep inner ear infection. Without surgery, the infection would spread to his brain and would be fatal. After consulting a veterinary surgeon, Frankie underwent surgery that enabled the surgeon to culture, drain, and treat the infection. The surgery was performed this past summer and Frankie is doing much better. However, he still has some discomfort in his ear and continues to need trips to the veterinarian to clean out the “debris” in his ear – a side effect of the surgery – and  medication to keep the inflammation in check. Frankie’s surgeon has recommended additional surgery but we are hoping his condition can be managed with medications. Now that Frankie is 12 years old, additional surgery would be risky and stressful.

Despite all of this, Frankie has been amazingly resilient. He is walking around, eating and drinking on his own – something he wasn’t doing before the surgery. And, on good days he purrs up a storm and is quite playful! His foster mom, Julie, has taken amazing care of this sweet boy who deserves the best. What Frankie needs now are a few more Guardian Angels to watch over him!

Shelby is recovering from surgery to remove the polyp deep inside her ear canal.
Shelby is back in her foster home after recovering from surgery. She is happy to be reunited with her big Great Dane buddy.
Shadow is  being comforted by a vet tech while being hospitalized and treated for pneumonia.
Shadow is staying warm inside an incubator while being treated for pneumonia.
Frankie is getting his ear examined before surgery to address his ongoing ear infections.
Frankie is a little groggy but happy to be back in his foster home after surgery.