The video is unbelievable, showing what happened to the cat at the Riverview Animal Hospital called "Emily." Her body had been pierced by an arrow, and yet she was still alive and kicking.
"Just the fact that she had this shaft protruding from both sides of her body and she was still looking around at us, I can't even imagine the amount of pain she would have been in," said Dr. Morgan Vargo. "When she came in, she was actually pretty alert, which was very surprising, she was conscious."
A couple of Good Samaritans say they found the cat near the intersection of U.S. Highway 301 and Krycul Avenue. They couldn't believe what they saw. The cat was walking around with the arrow going right through the center of its back, and rapidly going into shock. They brought Emily to the hospital in a box.
"They just kind of set the box on our counter and said, they had a cat with an arrow through it and we couldn't turn them away with that," said Dr. Vargo. "It was definitely something we'd never seen before. We were very shocked, we weren't sure what to expect when we opened that box."
The x-rays told a more promising story.
"You can see that black hole going right through one of her vertebrae," said Dr. Vargo motioning toward the x-ray. "We can see the spinal column running right above it and our hope is that it hit the bone, but missed the spinal cord. It doesn't look like, based on her x-rays, that it went through any part of her heart, any part of her lungs.
They had to act fast. The doctor clipped off the tail-end of the arrow and disinfected both ends. Curiously, someone had already removed the metal tip from the front of the arrow, which could have helped identify what kind of arrow this was.
They shaved all around the arrow, and once Emily was fully sedated, gingerly slid the arrow out. They're not sure of the extent of nerve damage yet.
"I don't believe that she can feel much past, about this area of her body," said Dr. Vargo, pointing to below the cat's ribcage. "When we use her back legs, she does have withdrawal, which is a normal reflex, she'll pull her feet away when we pinch them, but that doesn't necessarily mean she can feel when we are actually pressing on her toes."
"And when we pet back here," said Dr. Vargo sweeping over the cat's hindquarters. "She doesn't give us much of a response, so I don't think she can feel much past her ribcage."
The surgeon who saved the cat's life is Emile, so they're calling her Emily in honor of him.
"The fact that she had a professional hunting arrow through her body probably means that someone was using her as target practice or at least, was out hunting in an area where there's lots of feral cats around, although she certainly doesn't act feral," said Dr. Vargo. "Most places that spay feral cats actually clip one of their ears down, so that way, if she's ever picked up again, she wouldn't be spayed again, because she'd have an ear tipped off."
The cat had already been spayed and is very clean and very well socialized. Looking at her teeth, they believe she's 2 to 3 years old.
"You can see she's extending and releasing her paws and they sometimes call that, making biscuits, it's a sign of a happy, content cat and she just does that even when there's nobody around," said Dr. Vargo.
"Not just Hillsborough County, but every county right now has so many pets that are being turned loose due to foreclosures or economic situations and unfortunately, there may not be owners who are looking for her," said Chelsea Edmonds, who decided to take on Emily as a foster parent.
"You'd like to think there's an owner out there that wonders where their four-legged baby is, but if it doesn't happen, somebody's gonna want this cat," said Edmonds cheerfully.
They'll be watching Emily for the next week to see how her hind legs respond. If you think you know who she belongs to, or who might have done such a thing, contact Hillsborough County Animal Services. The shooter faces felony animal cruelty charges.
Making the investigation even tougher, the two men who dropped the cat off would only say they were new to the area, did not leave a cell or address where they could be reached.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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