It is easy to become enraged by stories like Butterball’s. The tortoiseshell cat had been living as a stray outside of a casino in Tunica, Miss., before she was rescued in early October. Several of the casino’s employees had befriended the cat, who was shy and fearful. They ensured she had food and shelter, and they got her spayed and vaccinated. She was doing well and gradually becoming more trusting.
Then the unthinkable happened. One of Butterball’s human friends found her curled in some shrubs, obviously injured. Assuming she had been hit by a car in the employee parking lot, Butterball’s rescuer took her to an emergency vet clinic in Memphis, where they got her through the night.
The next day she was treated by Dr. Charles Lebel at Family Veterinary Practice. That’s also where she met Felicia Keough, veterinary technician and founder of the Cat Atrium, a nonprofit rescue organization in Eads, Tenn. The Cat Atrium was founded in 2011 after Felicia realized that "rescuing a cat in need, caring for it and ultimately finding it a home was such a rewarding feeling for me. I knew that this was something I wanted to continue to do." Felicia was shocked by Butterball’s condition.
"Visibly, Butterball was horrible," Felicia says. "Her left eye had ruptured because of the blunt force trauma. Her right eye had no response to light, and she had lost all of her hearing. She had blood weeping out of her ears, nose, and mouth. She had a bulge next to her left ear where her skull was fractured, and the swelling of the brain was pushing against the fracture. She experienced facial tics due to the amount of swelling in her brain."
The strange part, though, was that her body was in good condition. She had no skin tearing or damage to her body, internally or externally. She had no broken or fractured bones from the neck down. Dr. Lebel determined that Butterball’s injuries could not have been caused by getting hit by a car. So what did cause her injuries?
"Fast forward three days," Felicia says. "[Butterball’s rescuer] was told at work that there were two employees ‘bragging’ about how they had ‘taken care of that cat with the bat.’ That situation IS being investigated by management of the company."
Determined to lend a hand as Butterball recovered from such shocking human cruelty, Felicia and the Cat Atrium decided to step in and provide financial assistance for Butterball’s care. The Cat Atrium is run by donations, so Felicia and her team, including Vice President Rebecca Jacobs and dedicated volunteer Cheri Causey, began seeking donations via Facebook and the Cat Atrium website. Felicia was amazed by how many people stepped up to help.
"I have had so many people say to me, ‘People are so horrible,’ or ‘This is why I hate people,’" Felicia says. "And it is so easy to think that way when you see or hear situations like Butterball’s. But I also have to look at how she was rescued and the number of people who are truly worried about her, and the outpouring of support, prayers, love, and positive messages sent to Butterball."
Butterball is currently receiving round-the-clock care and pain medication, and due to her broken jaw, she’s being fed by syringe. She recently had surgery to wire her jaw shut in the hopes that it will heal in a way that allows her to eat normally. She will also require surgery to remove her injured eye as well as bone fragments, and she may require a third surgery on her jaw if it does not heal as planned.
For the time being, Felicia is satisfied with Butterball’s baby steps toward recovery. Earlier this week, for example, the cat sniffed her food dish when she had previously been indifferent toward eating. Felicia is also amazed by the cat’s responses to humans.
"She is a sweet cat," Felicia says. "She will push her head into your hand as you pet her little ears. And her purr, oh my, she can get so loud. She is timid at times and she can be spooked easily. Can you blame her? I am surprised every time I hear her purr that this sweet girl can still be happy and respond positively to a human touch. It absolutely amazes me how resilient this cat is."
As Butterball heals, she will continue to receive the care and support she needs through the Cat Atrium.
"Butterball is a warm and loving girl, and we support her in this long journey as she becomes healthy and heals from this horrific incident," Felicia says. "We wish for the day when she is well, when she can choose to play with a toy or find a sunny window to lay in. We wish for the day she can find a home that will love her, be patient with her, and give her the love that she so deserves. Until that day, she will be safe with us."
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