Batgirl is pretty much a superhero. She never got the memo that cats are only allotted nine lives — or maybe she did and she ignored it. In any case, according to her adoptive mom, Linda Walker, the black rescue kitty has already used up several of those lives, and she’s only 16 months old.
"At this point, she should have died at least five different times," Walker says. "She doesn’t know that she shouldn’t be here. She lives in the right-now, and right now she is trying (and succeeding) to make every day great."
Like many rescue cats, Batgirl was found alone in the street, and she was taken to a high-kill shelter in Philadelphia. She was incredibly ill. Her eyes were severely infected, and she was malnourished and suffering from a severe upper respiratory infection. Her chances of survival were slim.
"Being rescued from the dangers of the street was one thing," Walker says. "But being in an overflowing shelter during kitten season was plenty dangerous, too."
Walker met Batgirl when Walker came to the shelter to transport another rescue cat. Walker started volunteering, donating supplies, and fostering cats after seeing one too many photos of homeless animals in need on Facebook. Tired of sitting on the sidelines, she realized she had to do something to help.
"I could improve their time in the shelter," Walker says. "I could open my heart and be in the moment with them and know that what I was doing (even if it hurt) WAS making a difference in the life of that cat."
Walker noticed Batgirl, who weighed only 10 ounces and could not see due to her eye infection, curled up in the corner of a bottom cage. Walker bent down to say hello, and Batgirl meowed. That pretty much settled it — Walker was going to foster Batgirl.
"She literally was out of time the day I saw her," Walker says. "She looked so sick, she couldn’t see, but she still came to the front of the kennel when I talked to her, stood on her little hind legs and pawed through the bars, meowing her heart out. The decision was made. She wouldn’t die in the shelter that day."
Batgirl required a good deal of veterinary care to get somewhat healthy again — though due to recurring infections and congenital deformities, she will never be 100 percent. The infection cleared up in her right eye, but her left eyelids are permanently fused to her cornea, giving her an adorable, squinty stare. Her skull is malformed, resulting in the absence of frontal sinuses. Her left nasal cavity is mostly bone, and her right is filled with dense tissue and fluid. This means Batgirl is extremely prone to upper respiratory infections.
"Batgirl’s breathing has always had some level of rattle, snarfle, or snot involvement," Walker says. "She is simply phlegmtastic."
Batgirl requires regular antibiotics to deal with infections as they arise, and she also takes prednisolone, a steroid, for the inflammation in her sinuses. Because prednisolone can cause diabetes, her blood sugar levels are checked every few months. She also receives probiotics and immunity boosters to keep her as healthy as possible.
Despite all her many health concerns and special needs, it was pretty obvious to Walker that Batgirl wasn’t going to be a mere foster cat.
"I started sharing her health updates with my friends and coworkers, and she became a ‘spokescat’ for fostering and for special needs animals," Walker says. "After a couple months, a friend asked me when she would be available for adoption because she had someone who was interested. I felt like I was going to throw up. That moment solidified what I already knew: Batgirl was going to be a permanent part of my family."
Recently, following another health scare, Batgirl got the opportunity to be a spokescat for another issue facing cat parents: It is important to keep dangling "toys," like strings and shoelaces, out of the reach of our kitties. Batgirl was particularly fond of a braided shoelace, and Walker took it away from her after she noticed pieces of the string were missing. Unfortunately, Walker’s preventive action was not quite soon enough. Batgirl ended up requiring emergency surgery after pieces of the shoelace became lodged in her intestine.
Fortunately, though, Batgirl is on the mend, and she is starting to act again like the sweet, silly cat Walker loves.
"Maybe it is the way she looks at me with one big eye," Walker says. "Maybe it is the way she sits at my feet and taps my leg to ask for snacks. Maybe it is the way that she runs down the stairs when I get home from work and launches herself onto my shoulder to give me snotty nuzzles and hitch a ride back upstairs. I am sure people have their own ‘Batgirl’ cats out there who are unique and special and amazing. I am really glad I found mine."
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