Amputee cats tug at heart
Stallone the cat has nine lives — and only three legs.
But, much like the characters played by that other Stallone on the big screen, this large, gray-strip tabby has proven to be a fighter.
Stallone was brought to Animal Protectors of Allegheny Valley in New Kensington just over two months ago after a woman saw the 2-year-old stray get hit by a car. His front left leg was badly injured and could not be repaired. A veterinarian amputated the limb at the shoulder.
“We are a no-kill shelter, so we go above and beyond in trying to save animals,” says Phyllis Framel, vice president of the Animal Protectors' board of directors. “We are ethically bound to give the best life we can to the animals in our care when they are with us, and we find them good, safe, loving homes.”
Stallone hit the kitty jackpot after his surgery. Animal Protectors volunteer Shirley Cindric welcomed him into her Lower Burrell home so he could recuperate before finding a permanent home. Cindric has been fostering injured and ill cats for the past 12 years. She has eight cats, including two that had leg amputations. Seven of her cats started out as foster pets that she couldn't bear to give up.
“The (amputee) cats are not like people — they don't even seem to realize they are missing a limb,” Cindric says.
Stallone immediately started using the litter box at Cindric's home, and he gets around just as well as a four-legged cat.
She tosses toys for him, and he bats at them with his one front paw while balancing on his hind legs. Stallone also can jump “amazingly high,” Cindric says.
When Cindric started thinking about a permanent home for the cat, she immediately thought of Bob Moineau, who had previously adopted two other amputee cats through Animal Protectors.
While looking at adoptable cats inside of the Pittsburgh Mills PetSmart store in March 2009, Moineau saw a petite, black female cat from the shelter that bore a striking resemblance to his beloved first cat, Velvet, which he lost to cancer.
He didn't notice that the cat called Comet was missing her front right leg, but the cat's handicap didn't matter.
Moineau quickly learned that he would not be able to give Comet free reign of the house. He had to prevent her from climbing on top of high objects. He also uses gates to keep her from attempting to navigate stairs.
He kept Comet isolated from his other two able-bodied cats, a calico named Chloe and a tailless Manx named Dodie. The cats were slowly introduced through the gate before they were able to mingle with each other.
Cindric called Moineau to see how Comet was adapting to her new home, and told him about another amputee — a tuxedo cat named Humphrey. She asked whether he knew of anybody who would be interested in adopting him.
“I called her back a few minutes later and said that I was interested,” Moineau says.
Humphrey joined the family in December 2009, and was a great fit with the personalities of the other cats. Humphrey and Chloe are shy around people, while Dodie and Comet peer around corners to check out human visitors.
Humphrey and Comet can hold their own in play boxing matches with their adoptive siblings, too. While they can't swat back at Chloe and Dodie, they do nip at their fur.
Moineau says he was thinking about adding another disabled cat to his brood when Cindric called him about adopting Stallone.
The timing was perfect.
“When Shirley showed me the pictures of Stallone, I knew I'd be adding to the group,” he says.
Moineau will exercise the same caution introducing Stallone to the group as he did with Comet and Humphrey. Stallone will be separated from the others by gates, and slowly get to know the other cats.
Because he is a busy accountant in the middle of tax season, Moineau will not bring Stallone home until after April 15.
He says he never even thinks of the cats as amputees — they are just loyal friends to him.
“Injured cats deserve to have a chance at a loving home just like any other cat. I don't think I've ever met an animal with medical problems that wasn't a loving animal,” Cindric says. “We are a no-kill shelter, so, unless an animal absolutely can't be helped, we don't have them euthanized.”
When a veterinarian does recommend euthanizing a cat or dog, a five-person committee must approve putting the animal down.
Animal Protectors accepts stray, injured and abused animals. They do not take owner surrenders.
The shelter has room for 22 dogs and tries to limit the number of cats to 30 to 40. In spring and summer, when litters of kittens are plentiful, the shelter typically has about 60 cats and kittens.
Animal Protectors employs a shelter manager and some part-time workers to care for the dogs. The shelter also relies on volunteers to “walk dogs and cuddle cats,” Framel says.
For information on how to volunteer to help the animals at Animal Protectors, or to find out about adoptable pets, call the shelter at 724-339-7388, or visit www.animalprotectors.net.
Jill Henry Szish is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.