While held captive in a laboratory, Leo the long-haired cat had his third eyelids surgically removed. This act of cruelty was performed under the auspice of a study designed to help research vision correction in humans. Before Leo found his features butchered even further in animal testing, though, the folks at the Humane Research Australia organization stepped in and whisked him away to safety.
“The night we picked Leo up from the airport was cold and wet,” says Helen Marston of HRA while recalling Leo’s couriered journey from Sydney to Melbourne. “Knowing the ordeal he went through, when his carrier was finally delivered to us we waited with apprehension for a frail, frightened cat. But peering through the cage wire of the crate handed over to us was a sweet young boy who immediately stole our hearts.
“We could only imagine what this little guy had been through,” continues Helen. “We promised that from this day forward he would be safe and free from the stress and pain of experimentation.”
Upon secure arrival in Melbourne, the plan was for Leo to be fostered by Rhianne Cork. The temporary safe haven quickly turned permanent though, as Rhianne says, “I realized I would be devastated if anyone took Leo from me and so adopted him. Of the many cats I’ve taken in he is my sole foster failure. That says a lot about how special he is!”
Rhianne goes on to talk gushingly about Leo’s personality. “His curiosity for the world around him is endless and innocent and so charmingly all-embracing,” she says. “Various aspects of life that would trigger caution or fear in other cats, Leo takes in his stride: The minute anyone comes to the front door, he is there to greet them with head-bonks and smooches no matter who they are. He comes and sits next to small children. He isn’t even scared of the vacuum cleaner!
“Considering what he was subjected to at the hands of humans in the past, you would forgive Leo for being cautious or distrustful, but his beautiful nature is completely opposite to this.”
Addressing Leo’s past in the lab, Rhianne says, “Looking at him, you would never know the horrible past he has endured — but if you look closely you can see the surgery scars around his eyelid that make me so sad. Yet this gorgeous, trusting boy lets me fuss at his face, wiping away the occasional eye crustie, smothering him with kisses, and he purrs throughout. He truly is an example of the beautiful resilience of abused animals — I don’t know that I could forgive and trust after what he has been through.”
Having shaken off his stint as a lab cat, Leo has also gone on to help bring awareness to the plight of animal experimentation by starring in his own children’s book. Titled Leo Escapes From The Lab, the story was authored by Helen and is based on the long-haired feline’s real-life ordeal. Seems like a literal happy ending on more than one count.
Make sure to keep track of Leo’s progress and adventures (which often involve cramming himself into cardboard boxes) over at his Facebook page.
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About Phillip Mlynar: The self-appointed world’s foremost expert on rappers’ cats. When not penning posts on rap music, he can be found building DIY cat towers for his adopted domestic shorthair, Mimosa, and collecting Le Creuset cookware (in red). He has also invented cat sushi, but it’s not quite what you think it is.