When Janice White pulled her car over on Lakeshore Road last week, grabbed a blanket and snatched up a kitten from the road, she had no idea whether the wee orange ball of fur was alive or dead.
A talented amateur photographer, her plan had been to spend some time with her camera and then head home, but when she realized she had passed over a kitten someone had hit and left for dead, as had the vehicle behind her, she turned around as soon as she could to pick him up. As she wrapped him in the blanket, she says, she could see no marks on him, no blood or visible injuries.
The cat-lover headed straight to the Virgil Animal Hospital on Niagara Stone Road, not knowing if he would be breathing when she arrived.
When she pulled in, she called the number on the door of the clinic, and following the pandemic protocol, a staff member came out into the vestibule, grabbed him from White, and disappeared, leaving her outside.
“As I sat in my car, waiting for some news, I couldn’t stop shaking,” she says.
The first report was that he had either broken his neck or his back, and humane euthanasia would likely be the only option.
“I wasn’t surprised,” says White. “I didn’t even think he’d make it to the vet’s.”
But after X-rays were taken, a staff member came out again and said they were wrong, his neck and back were fine.
But the kitty was in shock, and she was told he might have severe neurological damage — they just didn’t know at that point. They said they would put him on pain medication, and since it was late afternoon, they asked about sending him to the emergency medical clinic overnight.
“Then it got complicated,” says White.
“I told them I couldn’t take financial responsibility. I’m newly retired, and I knew the bill would be significant. But I had already formed an emotional attachment. I said, ‘that can’t be my call. You have to make the decision.’”
With the cost of overnight care about $600 a night, the clinic decided they would keep him, and in the morning, he was doing much better. “They said he was a fighter.”
White did some research and found a red-headed fighter named Micky, and that became the name of the little ginger kitten, whom the veterinarian said was seven weeks old, and weighed just two pounds.
“They told me he still wasn’t out of the woods, but he was more active, and they felt he needed surgery, a leg amputation. His left front leg was paralyzed, and the vet wasn’t comfortable doing an amputation on a kitten so young, so they wanted to send him to someone more experienced.”
White told them she’d start a GoFundMe page, and committed to what she could raise on that, she said.
The fund is doing well, but White says she has no idea what the final bill will be, and has decided to keep the fund going, to also cover vaccinations, neutering, and pet insurance for anything else that pops up in the future.
She is also hoping, with all the coverage on social media, to find a permanent home for Micky — she has a cat who won’t be happy with another one in the house, although she has brought Mickey home to save costs until his surgery, and is finding him so loving and sweet, she’s not making a decision about giving him up just yet.
NOTL Cat Rescue will likely help with the adoption process, if that’s what she decides, but doesn’t have the funds to pay for Micky’s medical needs — no rescue organization has that kind of money, she says.
The area of Townline Road and Lakeshore, where she picked up the kitten, is known for stray cats and kittens, White says.
“There is probably a colony there, maybe several. There has to be a way to get them spayed. But there aren’t a lot of financial breaks for rescue organizations.”
Erika Buchkowsky, a volunteer with NOTL Cat Rescue, says the story of Micky is all too familiar. There is another little kitten, Murphy, at the rescue shelter now, who continues to have health issues. He was found by town staff at the Concession 6 roundabout, “in really bad shape, and he’s going to become expensive too. He’s another needy kitten.”
Shelter volunteers have already trapped about 20 cats and kittens in the area where Micky was found, to be spayed or neutered, she says, and he is likely one they missed — his orange and white colouring is similar to those they picked up. “It’s a problem area, but just one of many,” says Buchkowsky.
Most of them have been vet-checked and adopted, but the shelter still has six adults that are slowly being socialized, hopefully to go to good homes.
“People think of cats as being mean and nasty,” she says. “They aren’t at all. They’re just not used to humans or human contacts. They’re not nasty, they’re really frightened.”
The local cat rescue organization trapped 74 cats and kittens last year to be spayed or neutered, most of whom have been adopted, although the few that can’t be socialized are returned to where they’re found. They have 14 cats in the shelter at the moment.
A male and female cat can produce a lot of kittens in a year, Buchkowsky says, and those kittens go on to reproduce, so when you have an area of feral cats, the numbers can grow exponentially. There aren’t a lot of vets offering discounts, and cat rescues, such as the one in NOTL she volunteers for, haven’t been able to do a lot of fundraising during COVID.
“Some of the volunteers like myself have been paying for food, litter, and other supplies, and the vet bills, out of our own pockets,” she says. “Cat rescues can be mentally and financially draining.”
To learn about or donate to NOTL Cat Rescue, check out the organization’s Facebook page.
In recent months, White has used her photography skills to help raise money for the shelter. She has been offering mini-sessions for families or their pets, and offering a package of five edited photographs, which have been well-received. She charges $100, with the full amount going to the shelter, and has so far been able to donate $800. White is willing to continue her personal fundraiser for the shelter for the month of October, and can be reached through Messenger on Facebook.
Meanwhile, she says, after a bad week, Micky is doing well. He’s “a real sweetheart,” eating, which will help make him stronger for the difficult surgery he’s facing, active, vocal, and happy playing with toys in White’s guest room.
But he has a long recovery ahead of him, and a lot of challenges, says White.
To donate to Micky’s GoFundMe page, visit https://www.gofundme. com/f/help-poor-kitty-hit -by-car