Editor’s note: Have you seen the new Catster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting area of your vet’s office? This article appeared in our November/December 2016 issue. Click here to subscribe to Catster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home.
Buddy Bear, the striking, long-haired black cat with piercing green eyes, is a standout in any crowd, especially in his community cat clowder. A regal mane frames his handsome face, and while he looks like the king of the jungle, he is, at heart, a sweet pussycat. The friendly, fixed tom was as popular with all the cats in his managed colony as he was with his caregiver. Being from Louisville, Kentucky, his Southern charms always worked on his caregiver for an extra treat or good ear scratch.
One winter morning, the caregiver noticed something wrong with Buddy Bear. He wasn’t bounding up for his morning meal. In fact, he barely moved. Buddy Bear was quickly taken to Louisville Metro Animal Services, where it was determined he could not use his back legs, and emergency medical attention was required.
Luckily, the animal shelter has a premium partner in Alley Cat Advocates — the partnership benefits cats that the shelter doesn’t have the resources to manage. Buddy Bear fit the bill.
He was transported to a local veterinary clinic for diagnostics, and ACA agreed to provide any additional care that might be needed. X-rays were taken, and speculations flew as to what could have caused the injury.
Then the unthinkable revealed itself: Someone had shot Buddy Bear near his shoulder blades. The veterinary staff shaved off a patch of fur where the X-ray showed the entry site of the bullet.
The good news? The wound needed no care; it had healed nicely. However, the bullet was lodged in a location where removal was risky, and the damage done to his spinal cord and related nerves is expected to be permanent. After his initial veterinary visit, Buddy Bear was on cage rest for one month to ensure the bullet wasn’t shifting. He received two weeks of antibiotics and was closely watched as he acclimated to new indoor digs.
ACA was happy to help him.
“Helping all stray cats is our mission. We do so without regard to cost as a way to demonstrate in deeds, not just words, that all cats are important, regardless of from what type of ‘home’ they originate,” said Karen Little, president of ACA. “It is part of the culture of caring that we’re working to create and support in our community.”
News of Buddy Bear spread. ACA posted updates about his condition on social media, and the fluffy feline received an outpouring of support. The next person in his life stepped forward — a foster mom willing to do whatever it takes to make Buddy Bear feel loved and pampered. While Buddy Bear can defecate without assistance, he can’t urinate on his own, and his foster expresses his bladder twice a day.
Buddy Bear adjusted quite well to his new foster home. For a few days, he was kept in a closed cage, but as soon as the door was opened, he was out and about. He’s able to slide himself along the tile floor and can even go upstairs to get into the sunroom. His foster reported, “Buddy Bear is not troubled at all about his legs not doing much in his search for food. It is always about food!” His foster hears him thudding off the bed that he’s climbed up in his perennial quest for something yummy.
There is one problem, though: Buddy Bear wants to be petted all the time, and as his foster shared, this can make expressing his bladder somewhat of a challenge.
“There is ￼￼￼￼￼no way to hold him that he can’t reach around and try to flop over on his side so he can be petted rather than wasting time on that bladder thing,” she said, chuckling.
Buddy Bear’s journey ends in a second victory: His foster mom will not part with the irresistible cat who makes her cry tears of joy and her heart swell — she’s Buddy Bear’s best buddy for life.
About the author: Denise LeBeau is an essayist, writer, and editor. For seven years she has been a full-time writer for an animal welfare organization. She shares her home in Hampton Bays, New York, with two rescued Siamese cats, Flipper and Slayer, and two rescued moocher mutts, Parker, and Zephyrella.