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Ralphie is well known in his neighborhood.

The 10-year-old gray and white cat lives in a feral cat colony in Salisbury, Mass., where he and his colony-mates are cared for by a group of people that provides them with food, shelter and water.

On January 21, the colony’s caretakers found Ralphie gravely injured by the side of the road, the victim of a hit-and-run collision by a motorist who, they guess, was distracted by the blizzard-like conditions raging through New England at the time.

The caretakers quickly took him away from the accident scene and monitored his condition while they transported him to the Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society (MRFRS) shelter. Upon arrival, Ralphie was in severe distress, and another good Samaritan drove him to Newbury Animal Hospital, where veterinarians determined that he would require emergency care of a level they could not provide. So Ralphie was on the road again, this time to Essex County Emergency Veterinary Hospital in North Andover.

There, veterinarians diagnosed Ralphie with a diaphragmatic hernia.

In laymens terms, He was hit in such a way that his intestines were pushed up into his chest cavity, putting a hole in his diaphragm.So he couldn’t breathe on his own, said Stacy LeBlanc, founder of MRFRS.

Surgery to repair the hernia went well, and Ralphie is making a strong recovery.

Ralphie sailed through the surgery and is doing better than anyone could expect! He has a chest tube, which is hardly draining at all – a great sign that his lungs are fully expanding to fill the pleural space,” LeBlanc wrote in an e-mail to a group of shelter supporters and other interested parties. If he continues to do so well, they will pull the chest tube later today. He has a fentanyl drip for pain, which is necessary while the chest tube is in.

But there’s a down side to this heroic rescue. The cost of his surgery and care was estimated at $3,000, a figure that could rise.

The dire straits in which Ralphie found himself are not unusual, LeBlanc said. We usually have something like this every month.”

That necessity has led the MRFRS to look for ways to contact a sympathetic community of animal lovers for donations when the need is acute.

We are actually starting up an emergency funding e-mail group, so that when a situation like this happens, and there are folks willing to contribute a few dollars, we will be able to get the word out right away.”

This just shows that it is so hard for these free-roaming, feral kitties; when something traumatic happens, there is no one there for them,” LeBlanc said. ButI am proud to say that the MRFRS is there for these kitties. Through the support of our volunteers, donors, Captain Courageous Fund, and now this emergency assistance group, we will be able to help these cats in need.

The MRFRS knows of about 50 feral cats in Newburyport, Salisbury and Amesbury. Shelter volunteers care for about 20 of them, and the others are handled by private caretakers.Like many feral cats in this area, Ralphie was neutered by the MRFRS 10 years ago, so he is known to its volunteers.

We know there are more out there, and we want to be able to make sure those cats get the attention that they need, LeBlanc said. We estimate that there are about 100-150 cats in these towns that we don’t know about and we want to know about.

As for Ralphie, he is making a strong recovery. Moments after waking from the painful surgery, the cat who has lived all 10 years of his life without a home was expressing his gratitude with purrs and kneading.

Veterinarians predict that he will be released to foster care today. Once he’s made a full recovery, Ralphie will be available for adoption.

[Source: Amesbury News]