When a silver-gray Persian named Fiona first came under the care of the South Texas Persian Rescue last month, she suffered from more health problems than she could count on one paw. Rescued from a high-kill shelter, the five-pound cat had almost no fur, and her skin was covered with sores, ulcerations, and scabs. She was underweight and teeming with fleas, and she had an upper respiratory infection.
She also had a broken canine tooth, which is tricky to repair. According to Beth Anderson, South Texas Persian Rescue founder, cats’ canine teeth have long roots, so when you pull the tooth, the resulting hole creates an open passage from the mouth to the sinus cavity. In order to fix this problem, vets must do a bone graft to close the opening.
As if that weren’t enough, Anderson was also concerned Fiona might be pregnant.
"She’s itty-itty-bitty, but fierce," Anderson says. "Man, she’s fierce. Basically we thought kittens might not be in this tiny thing’s best interest."
In order to get Fiona the medical care she so desperately needed, Anderson organized an online fundraiser. Finally, the clouds had a silver lining: Fiona was not pregnant. Once she gained some weight, she was spayed, and her broken tooth was removed. Thanks to antibiotics and a grain-free diet, Fiona’s skin has started to clear up. "She’s starting to grow some peach fuzz," Anderson says. But the irritation is most likely due to a systemic allergy, so Anderson will make sure potential adopters are willing to give the cat the lifelong care she needs.
"When she’s fully recovered, whoever adopts her is going to have to be willing to keep her on the medication to help her allergies," Anderson says. "She’ll be with us for probably another month or two before we’ll put her up for adoption."
Until Fiona finds her forever home, she’ll remain under the care of the nonprofit, foster-based rescue, which has adopted out 100 to 200 cats each year since 2003. Most of the group’s adoptions are done online, and even for cats who don’t require as much special care as Fiona, potential adopters must meet very specific criteria.
"Because the Persian breed is such a high-maintenance breed, we’re very selective about who we adopt to," Anderson says. "It’s pretty rare that we’re going to find somebody who’s going to walk into a PetsMart and say, ‘Yeah, a Persian. That’s what I want.’ Most of our interest is through PetFinder and Facebook."
The reason for the group’s high standards: These cats require a significant amount of care. A lot of Persians have food allergy and sensitivity issues and must be fed a high-quality, grain-free diet, meaning cheap, commercially available foods will not cut it. Some Persians have environmental allergies as well. "I’m going to have to phrase this delicately, but when they start shooting green and yellow stuff from their nose and eyes, you’ve got to take them to the vet," Anderson says. The cats also require regular grooming (at least a couple times a week) and trimming in "sanitary areas" to avoid what Anderson calls "dingleberry butt."
But Anderson says Persians are certainly worth the extra effort. Her cats have all been Persians or Himalayans, and she founded the South Texas Persian Rescue when she wanted to foster the breed but couldn’t find a dedicated group. Today, Anderson’s rescue is still the only Persian rescue in the Southwest, rescuing cats primarily from kill shelters in Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. And if you give these cats a chance, they’ll win your heart.
"They have the best personalities," Anderson says. "They’re so laid back and easygoing. They’re so loving and affectionate. And they’re so freaking cute. They’re just awesome little cats. They’re not very high energy. They have bursts of energy, but for the most part, I tell people they’re pretty couch potatoes."
In addition to rescuing cats, Anderson raises funds through her side business, It’s a Cat’s Life, in which she builds colorful cat fountains and toys, including jingle balls, feather wands, and scratching pads. The company can be found on Facebook and Etsy.
While you’re at it, follow the South Texas Persian Rescue on Facebook as well and check out the face on Brumley, a handsome fella who the group recently sprung from a New Mexico kill shelter. The cat arrived fat and fearful, but he’s slowly learning to trust. Watching cats like Brumley blossom is Anderson’s favorite part of the job.
"It is wonderful to see them blossom into trusting, loving animals," she says. "A lot of times when we get them in, they may have never known love or affection. It can take awhile; it can take a couple of months. But when they start to respond to you, and come to you and ask for attention and love, it’s just wonderful."
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About Angela: This not-crazy-at-all cat lady loves to lint-roll her favorite dress and go out dancing. She also frequents the gym, the vegan coffee joint, and the warm patch of sunlight on the living room floor. She enjoys a good cat rescue story about kindness and decency overcoming the odds, and she’s an enthusiastic recipient of headbutts and purrs from her two cats, Bubba Lee Kinsey and Phoenix.