Heloise. Photography courtesy Nikki Sevy.

Tragedy Turns to Triumph for Heloise the Cat


Heloise, a beautiful tabby with piercing jewel-green eyes, was adopted out by the Humane Society of Northern Utah. One night she went missing, and her adopters were frantic. She came back two days later, but something was very wrong. Heloise was limping and, worse yet, she had no control over her bowels or her bladder. Their veterinarian believed she was hit by a car.

She didn’t have any broken bones, but there was a lot of bruising and swelling. After two weeks of medication she was doing better. Her gait improved, and she gained more control over her bladder, but she still dripped urine and dropped feces throughout the house.

Heloise Finds a Second Chance in a Sanctuary

Heloise. Photography courtesy Nikki Sevy.

After a few more weeks, her adoptive parents brought Heloise back to HSNU in tears. They loved her dearly but couldn’t handle her situation. The sanctuary manager, Kelly Payton, welcomed the kitty back with open arms. Unsure what life would hold for Heloise, the organization made a lifelong commitment to do all they could for her. Even if she lived out her days at the rescue, she would be cared for. It wasn’t a forever home, but she would be loved.

“We took her to our vet for more extensive tests,” says Celeste Bailey of HSNU. Nerve damage at the base of the tail was determined to be the issue. At the time, removing her tail wasn’t believed to be able to fix her problems.

Heloise entered the sanctuary, a series of trailers with several cats per trailer, where volunteers and an onsite caregiver take stellar care of all their charges. Living in a multi-cat trailer proved problematic, as Heloise’s erratic pooping was a health risk for the other kitties. Kelly’s husband, Bill, built a special cattery just for her with a wire bottom so she wasn’t standing in her own excrement. It was outfitted with cozy blankets and cat beds, too. It was comfy, but it still wasn’t a home.

“We honestly thought that Heloise would be one of our lifer kitties,” Celeste says. “We have a few of them who have serious issues that make most adopters not want them.” Celeste indicates potty issues as one of the biggest deal breakers for many people. But not for their volunteers! One of their foster folks, Shae Johnson, has a huge heart when it comes to kitties. Shae has a cat who’s been wearing diapers for years. When Shae heard about Heloise she knew she’d have to give this wonderful cat a try at a normal life.

Moving forward with Heloise

Shae connected with the veterinarian, and they decided it would be best to amputate Heloise’s tail. Heloise had no feeling left in it and, being a pro, Shae knew having Heloise tailless would make diapering much easier. Shae is now working with Heloise to get her used to daily bathing and the diapering process. “I personally don’t think anyone would have adopted her the way she was,” Kelly says. “Shae loves her, says she needs her, and she’s willing to care for her. Heloise will have to have Neosporin on her female parts because she also leaks urine, and it causes ulcers.”

Shae’s experience with her own neurological kitty, Esau, is a guiding beacon for how to help Heloise. Esau was born without a tail and has been incontinent for his whole life. Shae’s committed to caring for Heloise in every way and thinks Heloise will also become a cherished family member. “Esau is a happy and well-loved kitty,” Shae says. “With a little work, Heloise can be happy in a home too.”

As the saying goes: “Many hands make light work,” and many hands have made Heloise’s life turn from tragedy into triumph. Heloise doesn’t know she’s different, but she sure knows she’s special.

LEARN MORE: To learn more about Humane Society of Northern Utah, visit humanesocietyofnorthernutah.com.

Thumbnail: Photography courtesy Nikki Sevy. 

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.

Editor’s note: Have you seen the new Catster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting area of your vet’s office? Click here to subscribe to Catster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home. 

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