July, the Whole Year Round

Blog author: 
Anne Zabolio

Jennifer Pospisil, a Thundering Paws donor, called us to ask me to trap a cat in downtown Austin. "Anne, this cat is skin and bones," she said. I know that Jennifer prefers her cats "full-bodied," so I wasn't too worried about the kitty. However, I grabbed a trap and headed for 5th and San Antonio Streets.

There I was met by another woman who works in the area and feeds the two kitties she had seen scurrying around a neighboring office building. "One of them looks fine but the other cat is skin and bones," she said. Yeah, yeah, I thought, these people are "catdependent." Nevertheless, I set up the trap and asked her to check it in an hour or so.

She called me to say she had trapped the cat, so I headed back to pick her up for a vet visit. I had never seen anything like this cat! The poor cat was emaciated! She was whisked to the vet who spayed her. We all assumed she couldn't get enough food and now that she was under our protection, she would soon be in top shape.

July before

Since two cats had been spotted, I reset the trap and got a gorgeous, fat male who was neutered, vaccinated and released to a managed feral colony out of town.

When I got July back, as she was named at the vet clinic, she was petrified, frail looking and newly spayed, which always gives a kitty a sort of "caved-in" look. The thought of releasing this animal to a feral colony was more than I could entertain, so I told Jennifer that we would keep her until she was in better shape. Jennifer said she would sponsor this kitty, which means she pays all of July's expenses. Like all donations to Thundering Paws, sponsorship is tax deductible.

Enter the Cat Whisperers. Dave Harper could barely keep his hands off July and soon was petting her. Brittany LaMantia's heart also went out to the poor kitty and she talked to her every day when she came over, and ever so slowly began touching her. Annie Stuhr talked to July, began petting her, and fed her canned food every day. The next sentence here should read: "Within a month, she was a butterball." That, however, did not happen. By September, she looked as bad as ever, if not worse.

By this time, Dave could pick July up and hold her on his lap. He eased her into a carrier and took her to the vet. July trusts Dave a lot and she allowed him to hold her while the vet examined her. The vet found an infestation of worms and she was started on a systematic worming, which went on for a few months.

By December, when her medication was finished, she was still no heavier. We all agreed that another vet trip was necessary. Of course, the holidays postponed it until Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which Dave used part of his day off to take July back to the vet.

Dr. Buell and Dr. Kelly at Northwest Hills Pet Clinic examined July and Dr. Kelly found a mass under her rib cage. "We're pretty sure it's cancer," he regretfully told Dave, but he performed a needle biopsy to be positive. He said that the mass felt "woody" and "crackled" when he inserted the needle: both characteristics he felt were odd. That was a sad day at Thundering Paws.

On Tuesday, the results of the needle biopsy came back with no cancerous cells. "This is not to say that there are no cancerous cells," Dr. Kelly cautioned us, "but it just could be a foreign body." We all agreed that surgery was a must and she was scheduled for Thursday.

Dave told me not to get my hopes up, but we hadn't had any good news about this kitty at all and so I decided, what the heck! I'd just go ahead and get my hopes up. I've had hopes dashed before and lived. I popped out of bed at 5 a.m. on Thursday to get my chores done and get her to the vet at the right time. I was so happy that finally something definitive was going to be done for July! She let me pick her up and put her in a carrier and I got to the clinic just after they opened. I dropped her off, telling the patient receptionist the entire tale. She told me that I could call around 2:30 p.m.

I went to Starbucks. I ran some errands. I went to another coffee shop (okay, I'm an addict) and worked on this newsletter on the laptop. I went and ate lunch. By 2 o'clock, I simply couldn't stand it another second, and I called. I was told that July had tolerated the surgery very well and was waking up but the vet was unavailable to talk to me just then.

That was because he was talking to Dave, who called me moments later. Dave said, "You're not going to believe this. There was an encapsulated mass of plastic and grass in July's stomach that was interfering with her absorption of food." She also had one non-functioning kidney but the other one is just fine. Of course, the mass and the unhealthy kidney were removed.

I called Jennifer, who was delighted. I called Annie and Brittany and Calene and Kay and Scott and anyone else I could think to call. I was soooooooooooo excited!

Dave and I reasoned it out. Before the kind woman began feeding July and her friend, the cats had no doubt survived by dumpster diving and at one time July had eaten something encased in plastic wrap. Or, as volunteer Toli Lerios pointed out when I called and told him (I called everybody!), she might have a "jones" for plastic, just like my precious kitty, Fleur Marie, who is absolutely powerless over plastic bags. (You don't want to know how I discovered Fleur Marie's passion.)

At any rate, there it was, and it had been there for months before we trapped her. It must have hurt so much! Poor kitty!

The main thing that I love about Thundering Paws is that all these people can get involved in the life of one tiny, emaciated, petrified, unadoptable, feral kitty. She had never gotten any care before, except of course, the wonderful woman who fed her and called Jennifer about July's plight. But just because Thundering Paws exists, July, who never looked like she was ready to give up, gets a chance. And, because of our Cat Whisperers, she will probably be tame.

She is a beautiful, long-haired, light gray tabby.

The dreadful first photo is a "before" picture. July gained three quarters of a pound in the first 11 days after her surgery. Believe it or not, that "after" picture is the same animal. Look at the white on her face; it matches. When I saw her after she had been released on the "cat run" for a few weeks, the only way I knew it was July was that it wasn't anyone else. Now, a year after she came here and six months after surgery, she is positively... well... zaftig! (That was Webster's word of the day a few weeks ago. It fits her.) We'll keep you updated on her progress, of course.

July after

Thank all of you wonderful people - Jennifer, Dave, Brittany, Annie, and all the other volunteers who stopped by July's cage and talked to her, touched her gently, gave her hope. Thanks to the veterinarians who didn't give up on her. Thank all of you people who support Thundering Paws! Without all of you, July would surely have died a painful death in downtown Austin. Because of you, she gets to recover.

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