When those at the animal shelter saw this kitten, they were appalled: the young cat had obviously suffered abuse. But when tests showed just how much torture she had endured, a desperate manhunt was called to find the culprit who hurt her.
Back in March 2016, a family from Utah County found something unexpected on the Spanish Fork River Trail. Specifically, the surprised group had stumbled across a wounded tabby kitten that had clearly been abused. And while concerned for its welfare, the family quickly jumped to the kitten’s rescue.
First, they carefully removed the wounded little cat from a thorny rosebush and then carried it two miles to the family car. Then, from the base of the trail, they drove straight to an animal shelter. Unfortunately, they could tell that she was living on borrowed time.
In fact, they took the kitten to the South Utah Valley Animal Shelter, but she would need more care than it could provide. Nevertheless the shelter kept the cat, who was nicknamed Miss Kiss, until she could be transferred to a veterinary hospital. Finally, then, she was sent on her way to Mountain West Animal Hospital.
And Miss Kiss’ veterinarian Dr. Isaac Bott was immediately aware that she bore marks of serious and disturbing abuse. In fact, the kitty suffered from such terrible injuries that it was a surprise that she had survived at all.
“[Miss Kiss] came in and there was a blow dart sticking out the right side of her head,” Dr. Bott explained to Fox 13 Salt Lake City in March 2016. An X-ray would be needed to assess the true extent of the damage, and she was duly prepped for further tests. Bott, however, feared the worst.
Indeed, the tests revealed that Miss Kiss had been living with a four-inch-long steel dart embedded in her brain. In fact, the dart had already damaged one of her optic nerves, blinding the cat in her right eye. And her injuries betrayed a disturbing story.
“Because of the entrance angle, this poor girl was likely eating out of a food bowl when she was shot,” Bott wrote on social media. Since she was then found in the bushes along a hiking trail, it’s likely that she was shot and dumped. Certainly, her situation was grave.
“Taking the X-rays, I knew that we had to take that out as soon as possible,” Bott added in a March 2016 interview with the Deseret News. “And of course with injuries like this, anesthesia is incredibly risky. Not only do you have the injury itself, but [there are] potential complications with anesthetic recovery.”
But things eventually became more bleak, as the X-rays also revealed that this wasn’t the first time that poor Miss Kiss had been used for target practice. In fact, there was another, smaller dart, thought to be a projectile tip, embedded in her leg.
Despite her serious injuries, however, Miss Kiss was an affectionate sweetie and full of purrs. However, Dr. Bott thinks that this might also have been related to her wounds. “Cats sometimes purr due to extreme pain,” he said in a Facebook post. “Some researchers think purring has a literal effect at aiding healing of injuries.”
As a result, the kitten was rushed into surgery – and the procedure was as difficult as Bott had feared. “Vital parameters had to be closely monitored. Her heart rate was arrhythmic and irregular,” he wrote on Facebook. “The close proximity of the dart to the delicate arteries that supply blood to the brain left little room for error.”
Thankfully, Miss Kiss was a fighter and survived the operation. Still, she wasn’t out of the woods just yet. Indeed, her condition was critical following the procedure, and her wounds meant that she couldn’t eat or drink on her own. So the vets hooked her up to an IV and kept her nourished and hydrated while she rested and recovered her strength.
Within a few days, though, the kitten started eating by herself and slowly started to recover from her injuries. “She still had a slight head tilt and likely will for the remainder of her life,” Bott said on Facebook. He revealed that she had also suffered permanent minor brain damage.
“She will hopefully continue to improve and live a life free of pain and suffering,” he continued. Meanwhile, the disgust at Miss Kiss’ abuse sparked a manhunt for the offender. Indeed, state officials offered a combined $8,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest.
And the search proved fruitless until July 2016, when Utah Valley Animal Rescue announced on Facebook that a suspect had been apprehended. A Mr. Kimball was sent to court, where he pleaded guilty to the crimes. He was charged with two Class-B misdemeanors.
That meant that he was fined $680 and had to undertake community service. He was also scheduled for a psychiatric evaluation and ordered to pay restitution for Miss Kiss’ medical bills, which at the time stood at $4,100. It’s debatable, though, whether this was fitting judgement for the damage he caused.
The most important thing, however, was that Miss Kiss got the quality of life she deserved after her trauma. And, thankfully, her special living requirements didn’t dampen any interest in adopting her. Moreover, while she had many humans offering her a new home, it was a man named Kevin who won her heart.
Like Miss Kiss, Kevin also has diminished eyesight: he is blind in one eye. And her new human wasted no time showering her with love and giving her the support she needed. Indeed, he went as far as sleeping on the floor with his new furbaby while she was recovering!
“[Miss Kiss] is doing extremely well,” Mountain West Animal Hospital wrote in a Facebook update. “Her head tilt and her limited vision in one eye has not affected her balance. Her dad loves her and is taking excellent care of her… she is living a great life.”