I can remember that it was a Wednesday night in mid May 2007 and that I was sitting in bed, reading a book at about 9pm in the evening, when my phone rang. Muriel had just received a call from a lady she knew that lived pretty much in the asshole of nowhere, a cat had appeared on her property. This ‘cat’ had turned up in a fairly bad way and could we help? We decided that Muriel should collect the cat and we would have a look at it.
It was about ten that night when I laid eyes on this mess that had once been a cat. She had once upon a time been a white cat, but now she was a sick yellow colour, emaciated to the point that the hair along her back bone and tail had fallen out due to poor nourishment. Her coat had the texture that can only be described as ‘Brillo pad’-like and she was unable to sit. She could only sort of prop herself up by splaying all four legs out and any attempts to walk resulted in continuous circling, which always ended in a ‘thump’ as she fell over. She had the most horrific head shake and would persistently sit and shake her head as if her neck couldn’t quite support the weight of her head. I could continue to describe her for pages but I’m sure you get the general idea, any person, be they vet or layperson, would have thought it an act of mercy to put this cat down, and they would not have been wrong.
Claudia’s involuntary head movements meant I couldn’t get a decent photo of her – the first one I was able to get was five weeks after we rescued her (see left photo).
After overcoming our shock at the state of this cat, our initial examination did reveal she had the worst ear infection I have seen in a long time, puss as thick as soft cheese leaked out of both ears and the smell was like that of very old cheese. It dripped down her head and we also noticed that while one pupil did respond to light the second remained steadily the same. Being undecided as to what to do with her and being unable to contact a vet, we concluded that a warm bed, fresh food and a good nights sleep were the least she deserved and we would deal with tomorrow, well, tomorrow.
As it turned out, that morning she seemed marginally better, sitting up and attempting to look around, while trying to keep her head still long enough to focus on the world. Upon visiting the vet it was determined that the cause of her head shake and wobbly nature was most likely the result of blunt force trauma to the head. How she obtained such an injury remains a mystery, she had no other marks or injuries on her, ruling out a car. Few cats would fall out of a tree and land on their heads. It is possible someone did this to her … but would a person be capable of such a thing? Her poor appearance seemed to stem from her injury, the balance loss, etc being responsible for her being unable to find food and shelter. After a thorough ear clean (yuck!) and a complete once over she was sent home on a course of tablets and a very uncertain future. We had no idea how long she was in this state or if she could ever recover but she had lasted this long and we were agreed she deserved the chance. Anti inflammatories were prescribed to reduce and pressure on her brain and clotting agents were given by the vet to prevent any further bleeds in to the brain.
Over the next few weeks she began to put on condition and I can still remember my intense delight when she walked in a straight line for the first time! Perhaps not much to you and I but to her, such an achievement. We decided to name her Claudia, a beautiful name to aspire to, yes I know it sounds corny but it does work, and besides I wasn’t going to refer to her as a dirty dish rag! After almost six weeks in our care she seemed to hit a mental brick wall and stopped progressing. Worried now we discussed what should be done, she had more than proven her desire to live but it seemed her brain damage was still causing her problems and restricted greatly her coordination. If she could not improve any further then she could not exist without continuous support and that seemed unfair to a cat that had shown she had an independent streak a mile long.
In the end as a last resort we coerced a mutual friend, who is an energy healer, in to having a look at Claudia. Now I don’t know how it works or if it works but we had no options left and it couldn’t hurt to try. What ever happened between them, that cat reacted to that woman like I had never seen, she all but tried to get in to Justina’s skin! She writhed in a white puddle of ecstasy on the floor throughout the sessions and after that never really looked back. Now, its possible that Justina gave Claudia the ‘kick’ she needed or that she decided that now was as good a time as any to get her ass in gear, I don’t know which of the two it was but something happened. She went from strength to strength, managing to climb her scratch post and even perfect her cat walk! She was FIV tested and sadly tested positive but we estimate her age at only about two years and despite her condition when we found her she has never actually been sick. Claudia was deemed fit enough to be neutered and sailed through that with flying colours. Claudia will probably have a degree of a head tilt for the rest of her life and will be a ‘bit slow’ with regards to mental process for the remainder of her days but hopefully with her determined spirit there will be many more to come. She has shown us that cats do not understand the meaning of the word can’t and that TLC is NEVER to be underestimated.
Claudia now resides happily in West Cork with her new family.