It had taken them hours just to get close to the scared little cat. But as they finally got near to the animal, his rescuers made a horrifying discovery. Someone had pushed a cardboard roll around his neck. The damage it had caused turned their stomachs.
In February 2017, residents of one California neighborhood noticed a stray ginger cat roaming the streets. Although they wanted to help, the animal was so shy that they couldn’t even approach him. In fact, even animal control services were unable to capture the petrified animal.
That’s when experienced animal rescuers, Kimberly Saxelby and Chris Gattas stepped in. The pair drove out to the location where the cat had last been spotted. Once there, they hoped to catch him and deliver him to a veterinary clinic.
When the rescue team first set eyes on the cat, what they saw broke their hearts. The ginger tom had a cardboard roll stuck around his neck. Moreover, the rigid tube looked like it was causing him a great deal of pain.
“We set a trap just two feet away from him while he [lay] under a car,” Saxelby told Love Meow in March 2017. “We waited for an hour, but we figured out that he was not going in because of the tape roll on his head, so we had no choice but to try and catch him with our nets.”
Eventually, Saxelby and Gattas managed to catch the frightened cat. It was only then that the pair could gauge the true extent of the animal’s injuries. The cardboard roll had cut into his neck, stripping him of his fur and skin and exposing raw flesh.
“We actually thought there was a dead animal near the shed,” Saxelby told Love Meow. “But it was actually the smell of his rotting flesh and infection from his neck.” The cat was clearly in need of medical care, so the rescuers rushed him to Rancho Cucamonga Animal Shelter.
“Little did we all know after we sedated him just how bad his condition was till we cut the tape roll off his neck,” Saxelby explained to Love Meow. “It brought tears to my eyes because I couldn’t imagine the pain and suffering this poor sweet cat [had] been through and for as long as he has. He is very emaciated and dehydrated from not being able to eat or drink well with the tape roll over his head.”
His rescuers named the cat Valentine after the saint’s day on which he was found. And what made the poor puss’s predicament so much worse was the suspicion that someone had purposely tried to harm him. However, he was now in good hands.
Vets took Valentine into emergency surgery. During the operation, they cleaned up the would caused by the tube. They also removed any dead flesh, before neatly patching him back up again.
After Valentine’s operation, Saxelby took to her Facebook page with an update on the cat. “He is doing very well,” she wrote. “The wounds are already starting to close up a little and he is alert and, of course, a bit grumpy but rightfully so after all that he has been through.”
“Valentine is in the best of hands right now with the wonderful vet staff at the center,” Saxelby added. “It is going to be a long haul for this sweet boy to recover and possibly more surgery to remove dead skin but hoping not. We also had good news that he is not FIV or Felv positive.”
The moving post touched many hearts, and over 500 people reacted to the gruesome photos of Valentine’s injuries. The cat was subsequently inundated with well wishes. “How can people be so cruel?” asked one user. “Thank you for saving him! Please keep us updated on his progress.”
Following his surgery, Valentine was only at the beginning of a long road to recovery. However, it seemed that he was determined to get well again. And soon he regained his appetite and was able to eat and drink freely once more.
In fact, Valentine’s swift recovery shocked everyone. Understandably, though, he was still nervous around humans. So vets gave him his very own cat box where he could focus on getting better without being bothered.
Once Valentine had come a little out of his shell, his rescuers got to work finding a foster family for him. However, the cat would need his bandages changed on a daily basis so the carer would ideally have to have some animal care experience.
Luckily, Saxelby soon found a suitable foster home for Valentine. Once there, the cat began to regain his trust in humans. And he even learned how to enjoy the odd petting from his new foster mom.
Seeing Valentine open up warmed Saxelby’s heart. “He has been through so much misery and pain, and he is so deserving of a loving home,” she told Love Meow. “I know at one time this cat was not afraid of humans and probably loved human touch.”
Less than a month after his rescue Valentine was completely transformed. “As you can see Valentine is making himself comfy at his new foster home,” Saxelby said to Love Meow. “He seems to be adjusting fairly quickly and that makes us very happy.”
In his new home, the cat is now coming out of his shell more and more. Moreover, his wounds are healing well, and he’ll soon be fit enough to go to a forever home. And there’s no doubt he will make someone the perfect Valentine.