We had just lost our beloved Tortoiseshell of fourteen years, and it was clear that Tom Tom, our social tabby, was lonely. Although he always required a lot of attention, it had gotten to the point where he wouldn’t let us out of his sight. When we had to leave him alone, Frank Sinatra would serve as the temporary fix for his broken heart. The smooth sounds of Ol’ Blue Eyes would lull Tom Tom into a catnap, allowing us to sneak out the door.
I visited several shelters and conducted my own “interviews” in an attempt to find Tom Tom the perfect companion. During this intense screening process, I happened to meet “Roger” during a book signing on a “Caturday” at our local library. “Caturday” is a monthly children’s reading event that partners with our local animal shelter. Adoptable cats are brought to the library and children improve their skills by reading aloud to the nonjudgmental animals. In turn, it helps prepare the cats for socialization and readies them for adoption.
The staff at the shelter encouraged me to visit the adoptable cats before the children arrived. I entered the conference room and sat in the middle of the floor, surrounded by cages of shy and timid cats. Leaning over to peer into the cage of a little gray kitten, I was startled by a deafening meow in my right ear, followed by an immediate furry and forceful head-butt that just about knocked me over!
I turned around to find the culprit: a little orange tabby cat sitting innocently beside me.
With another loud meow, he jumped into my lap and head-butted me again!
Collective laughter rang out from the shelter staff.
“We’d like you to meet Roger!” they announced.
This tiger-striped extrovert, who obviously had no concept of personal space, was allowed to roam free before the children arrived and was clearly different from all the other cats that cowered in their cages.
Even though he came off as a bit brash, he was still cute—but in an odd sort of way. The massive pointy ears on his little head made him look like a bat.
Giving it one more go, as if it were his last chance, he climbed up my chest, stared at me, and let out another ear-splitting meow. This was followed by the most powerful head-butt of them all. My glasses flew across the floor!
As the children lined up, Roger was placed into his cage. His persistent meows continued as his little orange paws reached out to me through the grate.
Needless to say, Roger won.
Within two weeks of joining our family, I noticed that Roger was eating less and appeared to be losing weight. I was puzzled because he had been found healthy in two separate vet checkups.
I made another appointment. After switching Roger’s food, I was told to bring him back if he didn’t improve in the next day or two. He resumed devouring the food and seemed to be doing fine. But then, a week later, I called the cats to eat. Tom Tom ran right in, but Roger didn’t.
I found him lying lethargically in the living room, with what appeared to be burst blood vessels in both ears. I rushed him to the vet. It turned out that Roger had contracted cytauxzoonosis, a protozoal organism transmitted to cats by a tick bite.
The infection, commonly known as Bobcat Fever because its natural reservoir host is a bobcat, is rare for a domestic cat and almost always fatal. Once symptoms surface and the infection has progressed, the cat usually dies within a day or two. New antibiotics have been proven to increase a cat’s chances of survival if caught within the early stages. Sadly, Roger’s infection had advanced, as blood clots were already forming, organs were starting to shut down, his fever was increasing, and his blood sugar levels had soared to dangerous heights.
As rare as this infection was, the vet explained that, ironically, she had just treated another cat a month prior. That particular case wasn’t as severe as Roger’s, and that cat did recover. Then she explained that she had begun treating Roger with the leftover antibiotics.
Making no promises and again reiterating how grim things looked, the vet explained that she would continue to treat him through the night and would call me in the morning. She prepared me for the inevitable; he most likely wouldn’t make it.
The next morning, Roger was showing small signs of improvement.
I asked to visit, and the vet agreed.
My heart broke as they carried Roger into the examination room. Wrapped in a blanket, he was laid on the table before me.
Silent tears streamed down my face as Roger lifted his head and steadied himself slowly to stand up.
Stepping forward with all the strength his weak little body could muster, he gave me a feeble head-butt before collapsing and curling up against my chest.
I cried harder.
How in the world had I managed to get myself so attached to this little cat in such a short amount of time?
The next day, he showed even more improvement.
With subsequent visits and intensive love and care, each day looked a little more hopeful than the last.
Before long, his IVs were removed!
After a three-week vet stay and the incredible care of one very dedicated veterinarian, Roger recovered.
His vet couldn’t explain it. “It’s a wonder he’s even here!”
While things were looking up, one challenge still remained: Roger’s blood sugar continued to run dangerously high.
Although extremely rare for a young cat, Roger was diagnosed with diabetes.
On top of caring so intensely for Roger, that same dedicated vet also had to deal with the fact that I was terrified of needles and scared to death to take him home!
Thankfully, we both survived.
After three months, Roger has successfully been weaned off insulin shots altogether. His diabetes is now controlled by a strict diet.
Roger is rather famous at the animal hospital and is often referred to as their miracle: “Roger the Wonder Cat!”
A miracle, indeed.
He’s still vocal and struggles with personal space issues, but he never passes up the opportunity to give a loving head-butt to everyone, Tom Tom included.
Finally, he’s a playful, happy, energetic kitty, who simply refused to give up.
On days when I find myself wanting to throw in the towel, along comes a daily head-butt to remind me otherwise. It’s a reminder to never underestimate the power of love and perseverance.