You’d never know from looking at her that the silver tabby purring and arching her back in response to loving attention is the only survivor of a horrifying ordeal.
Veterinarian Dr. Paul Sikoski believes 2-year-old Hanna-Belle’s survival is a miracle.
On December 9, Palm Bay, Fla., police and a Brevard County animal control officer entered an abandoned house. They discovered Hanna-Belle barricaded inside a dark closet, where she had been “perhaps for weeks,” along with the rotting remains of five other dead cats.
“She was emaciated due to starvation, severely infested with fleas, to the point where she was anemic,” said Sikoski, who treated the dying cat at the Palm Bay Animal Clinic.
“We had to give her [an emergency] blood transfusion, and almost instantly — within 30 minutes — she responded well to it,” he said.
Hanna-Belle was so weak from malnutrition and anemia that she could barely hold her head up, said Sikoski’s wife, Jen, the clinic’s other veterinarian. The cat, barely more than a rack of bones, weighed only 4 pounds, and her body temperature was 95 degrees, well below the normal range of 99 to 102.
“You could touch her and you would have blood on your hands from the fleas,” Jen Sikoski recalled.
With good care and plenty of food, Hanna-Belle’s weight had climbed to 5.75 pounds by Christmas.
The cat, which is now considered county property, may be used as evidence in an upcoming animal cruelty criminal case.
Suzanne Fountain, Hanna-Belle’s former owner, faces five counts of cruelty to animals and one count of abandonment to die. She is in the Brevard County Jail Complex on $501,000 bond.
Palm Bay police said Fountain used a heavy toolbox to barricade the cats inside the master bedroom closet of her abandoned home.
Authorities think the felines were forced to cannibalize each other to survive. One deceased cat was reduced to a skull, reports show.
“Unfortunately, in order for her to survive, [Hanna-Belle] did have to feed off of the animals that had already died,” said Paul Sikoski.
Despite her ghastly experience, Hanna-Belle still seems to trust people. Her easygoing and friendly demeanor is intact, and she’s enjoying her new chance at life. She is continuing to recuperate at a foster home in an undisclosed location.