Miracle cat's healing journey

Spartacus the cat lying on a plaid blanket next to a blue bowl
Faces of no-kill: Beautiful, blue-eyed cat Spartacus came to Best Friends with a broken leg and a terrible respiratory infection, but today he’s thriving in his new home.
By Nicole Hamilton

Spartacus was a diamond in the rough when he first came to Best Friends Animal Society in Salt Lake City from a county shelter in the area. Even though he looked worse for the wear, a whole team of people saw beyond his illnesses and injuries to who he truly is: a loving cat, ready for a wonderful new life.

With his beautiful blue eyes and fur in various shades of cream and gray, there is no denying that Spartacus is handsome. But when he arrived at the lifesaving center, it was also easy to see that he needed immediate veterinary care. He had a broken hind leg. And if that weren’t enough, he had an upper respiratory infection, too. In fact, you couldn’t see Spartacus’ baby blues at all. His infection kept his eyes crusty and closed.

For Best Friends, it’s not only about a single cat like Spartacus. Best Friends’ goal is for all shelters to reach no-kill, and that means working together with rescue groups and other animal welfare organizations to save pets’ lives, giving each one what they need to move out of the shelter.

Dr. Megan McCarthy, Best Friends veterinarian, examined Spartacus when he got to the lifesaving center. X-rays revealed he had multiple fractures in his leg, and the best treatment was to amputate it.

After his surgery, Spartacus rested and started his healing journey. But he wasn’t out of the woods just yet. He still needed to beat his upper respiratory infection. When the prescribed treatment didn’t do the trick and Spartacus stopped eating, the veterinary team surgically implanted a feeding tube. That way, he could get all the calories and nutrition he needed to get healthy until he could eat on his own again.

Once Spartacus was finally, albeit slowly, on the mend, the veterinary staff felt he was well enough to go to a foster home. Turns out, someone had been following his road to recovery all along and was ready to help him.

Volunteer in cat’s corner

Tyler Lisonbee has fostered many cats with special needs. When he learned about Spartacus — and how he would need to be fed through a feeding tube, given several medications a day, and have his dressings changed daily, too — Tyler wasn’t intimidated whatsoever.

In fact, it was quite the contrary. “I enjoy fostering cats with medical needs,” he says. “That’s what drew me to him.”

For the first few weeks that Spartacus stayed with Tyler, he was fed through the feeding tube — something that Tyler says isn’t as hard to use as one might think, provided they receive good training, which he got from the staff at Best Friends.

[Kindergarten students help a three-legged kitten get adopted]

He also made sure to keep the area where Spartacus had sutures from his surgery clean and helped him learn how to use the litter box without a hind leg. This involved finding a box with a low side that Spartacus could get in and out of easily and keeping only a small amount of litter in the box.

Eventually, Spartacus started eating on his own. His infection cleared up, too, and finally everyone could see those baby blues. After about two months, Spartacus was healed — healthy and ready for the next chapter in his life.

Cat’s life comes full circle

When Jesse Christiansen saw Spartacus’ photo and read his story, she decided to meet him. The timing was right, as she was in the process of healing, too.

In her case, it was from a broken heart. “I was looking for a new friend after the passing of my cat Nermal. After inquiring about Spartacus, I knew I needed to adopt him,” she says.

[Three-legged cat is full of surprises]

Today, Spartacus is thriving. He loves attention. In fact, one of his favorite things to do is play with his feline siblings.

As for Tyler, he’s looking forward to fostering more cats like Spartacus who need a quiet place to land while they heal. He has some advice for anyone considering fostering an animal with medical needs. “It’s not as intimidating as it may seem,” he says. “Don’t be afraid to do it because the rewards are great.”

Young person lying down and hugging a gray and white cat
Photo by Sarah Ause Kichas

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