When a beat-up minivan pulled into the Farmington Pet Adoption Center’s parking lot, shelter manager Wendy King greeted the middle-aged couple who had lost their jobs in South Carolina and had traveled to the Midwest to live with relatives. When that arrangement didn’t work out, they were forced to live in their van. The accommodations were not working for their cat, Silver Belle. As they handed over the 11-year-old blue point Siamese, Wendy noticed how gaunt and smelly she was. While the couple was most worried about Silver Belle jumping out of the vehicle, Wendy worried about the cat’s physical condition.
Silver Belle has her first vet care – at 11 years of age
Typically, the Missouri-based organization doesn’t take in cats over 5 years old, as they are more difficult to place. But Wendy made a lifesaving call when she whisked Silver Belle into the facility. She had noticed an alarming large mass protruding 2 inches from her abdominal wall. When she asked the couple about it, she learned that the mass had been there a long time and that it was due to a mysterious injury that Silver Belle incurred during a brief stint in another home. Board member Lucretia Skaggs explained the urgency: “In Silver Belle’s entire 11 years of life, she’d never received any vet care — not as a kitten, not as an adult, not upon being injured and not in the eight years she suffered with this large mass on her abdomen. Wendy knew this little cat would die if we didn’t intervene.”
Beating the odds
Silver Belle went straight to veterinarian Dr. Vicki Monnig. The tiny cat weighed only 5 pounds, 11 ounces, and the doctor noted she had a “golf ball-sized, soft and pendulous mass of unknown origin on the ventral abdomen.” She also suffered from ear mites and severe dehydration. Silver Belle was scheduled for surgery a few days later.
Back at the shelter, Silver Belle seemed depressed, and her weight had dropped 3 ounces by the time she was on the operating table. During surgery, the vet found a large hernia containing omentum and mesenteric fat, the injury most likely from being intentionally kicked. While they were addressing her mass, Silver Belle was also spayed. There, Dr. Monnig found an even bigger issue — the petite cat’s uterus was enlarged with a chocolaty liquid, the result of a long-term uterine infection. Dr. Monnig marveled that Silver Belle was still alive.
Silver Belle relives her kitten years
The folks at FPAC doubled down on their dedication to the precious girl. Silver Belle was in quarantine for three weeks, where she received antibiotics and pain medication. As each week passed, the cat care staff noticed that Silver Belle looked younger as she regained her energy. She also regained her voice and started chatting up a storm and eating up a storm, gaining 2 pounds in 10 weeks.
Once Silver Belle was out of the medical woods and no longer required any special treatment, it was time for her to join the cage-free adoption center. Because she was so small, staff decided to try her out in the kitten room. Silver Belle loved the kittens! She also loved being gently caressed and lounging on her cushy bed.
Home, sweet home for Silver Belle
While waiting for adoption, Silver Belle caught the attention of Eliza Coriell. Eliza said she was drawn by her beauty, but once she walked over for a closer look, Silver Belle sealed the deal with a loud unrelenting meow. Holding Silver Belle, the smitten adopter was taken by how affectionate she was and how much the cat had the characteristics needed to be a therapeutic companion for her son.
Now home, Silver Belle is the belle of the household ball — holding court with the other cats, sleeping on her new family and dazzling everyone with her kittenish enthusiasm for life.
Photography courtesy Marla Fyfe and courtesy Lalita Creighton.
Denise LeBeau is an award-winning essayist, writer, editor and self-professed poet laureate of the pet set. For the last seven years, she’s been a full-time writer for an animal welfare organization. She shares her Hampton Bays, New York, home with two rescued Siamese cats, Flipper and Slayer, and two rescued moocher mutts, Parker and Zephyrella. Connect with her on Facebook.