By Elisa Black-Taylor
A cat’s inner beauty is what people who wish to adopt a cat should be looking for when they visit a rescue or shelter. Sadly, this isn’t the case for most people. As a society, we’re conditioned to like beautiful things. Beautiful homes, beautiful cars, beautiful people to form relationships with. It’s no wonder so many cats who don’t measure up to the standard of what society considers beautiful are euthanized on a daily basis. (note: beautiful cats are just as likely to be euthanized when a shelter runs short on space)
Not only do individuals who are looking for a cat to add to their family lean toward the best looking cats, I also wonder whether rescues and shelters do this as well. Do rescues pick any cat in need, or do they choose the ones most likely to get adopted? Does a cats appearance have anything to do with who’s euthanized, or is it based on the arrival date or whether the cat becomes ill once in the shelter as to whether it’s allowed a few more days to find a home? Any shelter or rescue readers out there that can shed some light on this?
My Way of Choosing
During the year and a half we did rescue, I always based my decision on which cats to adopt or rescue by looking into the eyes of each cat I was sent a photo of. Greenville County Pet Rescue has an email list with cats needing a home. I often chose those cats who looked the most defeated. Who had given up on life. I guess in a way I was seeing the inner beauty, and what that cat could become if given a chance.
I’ve had several cats who didn’t measure up to what you’d call outer beauty. Old Ugly was one cat I fed back in the early 1980’s. Given the name by my mother, Old Ugly was extremely feral calico, emaciated and her eyes held a lot of pain. Still, over time, she learned to trust me. I never knew how old she was or who she belonged to. She simply stopped coming to eat about two years after I began feeding her. I searched the road, but saw no signs of her having been killed by a car. I’d tried on one occasion to take her inside our home. She wanted no part of it.
Spot was another favorite of mine. He was a huge black and white with gold eyes. We had Spot for 12 years and never really knew how old he was. He showed up one day back in 1981 and never left. He, too, had a gentle soul that belied his strange face. As with Old Ugly, Spot chose us instead of the other way around. I remember he first showed up with what was obviously a littermate. We called the other cat Groucho because of a black moustache below his nose. Groucho didn’t stick around very long.
Of all the cats I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, I’d have to say Sealy has the most inner beauty I’ve ever known in a cat. When I first saw his photo, with him laying with his head on his paws as though he’d given up on life, I knew I had to have him. I wanted to wipe that sad, defeated look from his face and free the beautiful spirit I somehow knew was inside him.
I never dreamed we’d be rescuing a cat who would have such a hard time healing. Sealy had suffered a car fan blade injury that eventually killed his best friend Tank. Tank had been with Sealy under the hood of the car and was fatally injured. Sealys left ear was missing, he had a deep blade imprint in his head, and there was a huge raw looking wound behind where his ear should have been. It amazed me the shelter didn’t euthanize him.
The shelter rescue coordinator showed us where he’d been injured before we left the shelter. She pulled him out of the square box he was in. I didn’t pay much attention to it at that time, but Sealy didn’t do a lot of moving around. We looked at his head, then the coordinator put him back into his box. It had a clear lid where he could watch us from the back seat of the car as I drove him home.
My daughter and I were only going to foster Sealy until a rescue could be found. Instead, we fell in love with him that first weekend and decided to adopt him instead. We had prepared a cage for him with soft blankets, as well as food and water bowls. Sealy didn’t move at all as Laura took him out of his carrier and placed him in the cage. Then he immediately went to the back on the cage and lay down. Laura put some food in his bowl. He cowered there in back at least 10-15 minutes before he came over to investigate.
Sealy’s been with us for nine months now. We discovered within the first few days that Sealy had no teeth. That didn’t stop him from eating. His time between food being placed in his healing cage and the time he came over to eat grew shorter and shorter. Sealy ate like a starving cat from day one. He LOVES food.
Over time, his personality has also shown through. For one thing, Sealy has a sense of humor. He loves to “tease” Laura and me. This first began when we wanted to get him out of his cage, and has now turned into when we want to bring him into the living room from my bedroom. He’ll make you think he wants out, then he’ll turn and get as far away from us as he possibly can. It’s like he can’t make up his mind. Stay on his comfy blanky or in my room on or under the bed, or wander around the house.
And wander he does now. Especially when he hears food being prepared. Anytime the microwave is on, he’ll venture over to the bar and sit by Laura as she cooks. I take that to mean he hopes she’s cooking for him. Sealy will stick his nose over into whatever we’re eating to determine whether he wants a bite. His favorite people food is boiled yellow squash.
Nine months have really changed Sealy. He’s gone from a cat that was cautious about inspecting his next meal to a cat who goes over and sits in his feeding cage whenever he wants a pack of his wet food. This usually happens at least ten times a day. He’s only fed 4-5 packs of food daily now, but he has the dry food to hold him over between meals. Even toothless, he loves the dry that stays on the feeding bar and in the cat bowl on the floor.
It took Sealy a long time to enjoy being out of the cage. We’d leave the door open and he’d refuse to come out on his own. A few months after his arrival, he “conned” Laura into rocking him to sleep several times a day. It was like having a newborn baby in the house.
After he’d been with us around four months, he would come over and jump in our lap wanting to be rubbed behind his good ear or under his chin. When he was tired of being fussed over, he’d go back and get in his cage and go to sleep.
He’s been out of his cages for several months now and we only use them for feeding him.
What a lot of people don’t realize about Sealy is he has a certain amount of brain damage from his car fan blade accident. The vet didn’t run any expensive tests to determine this. Being around Sealy at the vet, and then at home as we treated his injury, we noticed he was “different” than other cats.
Sealy’s vet doesn’t necessarily remember him for his injury. They remember him by how he acted on each of his weekly vet visits. Sealy had a series of seizures a week after he came to us. Thankfully, this only happened once and is quite normal with massive head injuries. On Sealy’s first vet visit, he was checked for worms, temp taken, blood drawn, catheter inserted for a clean urine sample, given two injections and given a sub-Q treatment. He lay there and allowed the staff to do anything that needed done. No hissing, fighting, growling-NOTHING! The entire staff was in shock. Sealy has been his sweet self through two operations and a couple of dozen vet visits.
Sealy also has a routine when he goes for a vet visit. Once in the waiting room, Sealy comes out of his carrier to be held. He never tries to escape and just lays there content in my arms. Even the barking of dogs in the waiting room doesn’t phase him. People who meet him at the vet are shocked he survived such a horrible accident.
That sweet personality is what endears him to everyone who’s heard his story. We don’t have a clue as to what Sealy was like before. We know he was seriously underweight at just over 5 pounds. He was listed at the shelter as being 2 years old. His vet said he’s at least 6-7. We think he may be much older because he has little dark specks on those beautiful gold eyes that only come with age. He may be 15, for all we know.
Sealy has told us in every way possible that he wants to live. He lost a lot of blood at the time of his injury. So much so that his wbc count was off the charts from new red blood cells “tricking” the test. The shelter vet had to put him under anesthetic to repair his torn ear. He was also neutered at this time.
During the couple of months where he was having surgery to close his wound after nothing else was working and everyone was questioning us about his treatment, it did occur to me that he might be better off euthanized. He had three vets at his regular vet hospital treating him, plus two vets where I got a second opinion. All were telling me the same thing on how not to allow a scab to form as infection could get under the scab and make things worse. After two operations within a months time, he still wasn’t healing as he should. We were eventually turned in by P.E.T.A. to animal control for Sealy’s head injury. Thank goodness I had vet letters outlining his care.
As far as the euthanasia thoughts, Sealy made it plain and clear that as long as he had plenty of good food, warm blankys and someone to rock him to sleep, he wanted to make the best out of the life he’d come into. That cat has so much courage. He never complained, never hissed or growled as we changed his bandages. His thoughts have always been very transparent to me, and he was telling me to let him live. That he’d made it this far and he’d make it the rest of the way to a full recovery.
All it took was plenty of time. Six months of time for his head injury to finally heal. Now Sealy’s living like a normal cat. He sleeps on the couch between me and Laura until I’m ready to go to bed. Then he either goes with me or sleeps with Laura. He also takes naps with his new friends Mandy and our cat-dog Cujo. I call them his new friends because he didn’t want anything to do with them for months. Now he goes over and curls up with them every night. Some nights we even catch him washing Mandy behind her ears.
This is NOT the same frightened, rejected cat we rescued on February 24. He has developed confidence and made friends. Plus he has his human servants wrapped around his little paw. He’s all over the house now. I even caught him laying in the rocking chair in Laura’s bedroom while she was out of town visiting family.
A lot of people see Sealy and probably see a cat with one ear, a very small bald spot where the fur didn’t grow back, and his lack of teeth. He’s not solid black. He has a small spot of white on his neck, and several white hairs throughout his body.
We live with the sweetest cat anyone could hope to call a companion. Somehow, I have a feeling he’ll have more adventures as he settles into his new life with us. I hope he’ll eventually play with some of the others. Mandy wants him to play now, but he’s not ready. His favorite game with us is slapping our fingers with his paws. He’ll try to bite when the game gets a little rough. Laura says he has tough gums.
I say he’s tough all over. He has to be to have survived all that he has. First the fan blade injury, then seizures and two operations. Those are just the ordeals we know he’s been through. His being 5 pounds and toothless makes me wonder what kind of hell he lived through before his accident.
He’s very spoiled these days.
I believe those who try to educate potential cat adopters about the kitten or cat they should choose may also be doing less beautiful cats a disservice. I’ve always heard it encouraged to “get the friendly pretty looking one.” I would imagine many of the cats who turn out with the most inner beauty may have started out shy and afraid.
I also wonder how many children have fallen in love with a less than beautiful shelter cat, and their parents told them “don’t get that one, it’s UGLY!” Children often see the beauty inside when adults cannot. What kind of example are we setting to teach them that physical beauty is preferable to inner beauty?
I hope anyone looking to add a cat to their family will remember the story of Sealy, as well as Old Ugly and Spot. Beauty on the outside doesn’t determine who the cat is inside. It’s a shame people pick a shelter cat for beauty alone, when the best companion they may ever have is left laying scared two cages down.
I really wish Michael (PoC) would show off some our less than perfect cats with the comments this article is sure to get. I love looking at photos of other people’s cats.
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