Meow as Fluff – Bart!

A very special THANK YOU to our friends over at Meow as Fluff for showing off another beloved favorite in our adorable house of misfits — Bart! You can check our pal Caitlin and the rest of the Meow as Fluff family by going here.

When Suzi Langer’s friend, who was working at a veterinary hospital near her home in Youngstown, Ohio, told her about Taloola and Bart, a pair of sick kittens who had recently arrived at the clinic, she and her husband Michael volunteered to foster them. “A good Samaritan found these two kittens alone with severe upper respiratory infections — a female calico and a domestic short-haired black male, about 12 weeks old,” remembers Suzi. Sadly, Bart’s upper respiratory infection was so severe and had gone untreated for so long, his left eye had ruptured and his right eye had suffered severe corneal scarring, leaving him only able to see light and shapes.

The black kitten also had a broken back leg, most likely due to being attacked by another animal before he was rescued, and he had a hernia that required treatment. While a lot of people might have been reluctant to foster a cat with so many different medical issues, Suzi and Michael had three special needs pets at the time — including a Rat Terrier with epilepsy, a deaf Pug with bladder cancer, and a cat with cerebellar hypoplasia — so they welcomed Bart and his sister Taloola into their home in July 2017. “Bart was — at best — leery of people,” says Suzi, so after he was neutered and had his hernia repaired and his ruptured eye removed, she and her husband gave the skittish black cat plenty of time and space to adjust to his new environment. “For the first few months Bart was a ghost in our home — his presence lingered but you never saw him.”

Over time, Bart eventually started to trust his foster parents, but in November 2017, Suzi learned the veterinary clinic would no longer be providing him with free medical care, claiming he was a financial risk. “I knew what that meant,” says Suzi. “He was a not nice, not really cute, extremely shy black cat with vision issues. In their eyes he was the least desirable cat to anyone and thus not worthy of proper medical attention.”

Suzi knew Bart needed an advocate who would make sure he received the care and treatment he deserved, so she and her husband adopted him! Shortly after adopting Bart, Suzi, who works at a vet’s office, had her employer remove a piece of gauze that had been accidentally left behind by the previous vet when he had his left eye removed. “They reopened his eye to remove the offending material and flush it out,” explains Suzi, “and ever since then Bart has not had any issues with sneezing or constant discharge.”

Nearly four years later, Bart is in good health, and while he’s unable to see very well, he’s an extremely active cat! In fact, this handsome one-eyed cat loves racing around his home, but because of his vision issues, Suzi and Michael try not to change the layout of their house. “Every so often when Bart is rushing about he will run into things,” says Suzi, “and we make it a courteous point to not rearrange the furniture.”

While Bart is much healthier today than he was when he first arrived at Suzi and Michael’s home, the biggest change has been in his personality. Initially, Bart, who had a difficult life on the streets before he was rescued, was easily frightened and incredibly shy, but over the past few years, he has blossomed in his forever home. “We gave Bart his space and slowly but surely he began to trust us,” says Suzi, “and now he is the most cuddly, sweet, affectionate and ornery little boy — and we wouldn’t have it any other way!”

By sharing Bart’s story, Suzi hopes other people will consider fostering and adopting cats who are often overlooked for a variety of factors, including age, appearance, temperament, and health issues. Even though they might take a little more time and energy, Suzi believes special cats like Bart are definitely worth the extra effort! “If we would have given up on Bart early on we would have never been introduced to his bubbly amazing personality that came later on with his confidence after finally feeling better,” explains Suzi.

When Suzi and her husband offered to foster Bart more than four years ago, they only planned to care for him until he was healthy enough to find a forever home. However, after just a matter of months, they knew Bart was meant to spend his life with them, and now Suzi and Michael can’t imagine their family without this special boy. “Bart has evened our home out in such a beautiful and poetic way,” says Suzi. “He is affectionate, adventurous, clown-like and never passes up the opportunity to ‘give up the belly,’ which is his way of showing his love and affection to us!”

Happy birthday Bart 🐾💕

Bart had a rough start to his little life. Surrendered to a local Veterinary Clinic caked in boogers and eye discharge he was terrified… he had a leg that had been previously broken (but was healing), a hernia and his left eye had ruptured due to the festering infection and chronic upper respiratory infection he was suffering while a stray kitten.

I agreed to foster him but as time went on I realized that this antisocial, terrified little baby kitten most likely would live his life hiding under the bed in my spare bedroom and that was perfectly OK! At least I knew he was safe and would get unlimited snackies and a safe haven all to himself.

I saw a glimmer of hope for Bart when I had to catch him to take him for one of his many veterinary visits (that usually involved stealth like precision and ninja like reflexes to capture him– I have no shame in admitting that a little blind kitten with a healing broken leg is far faster than I am!) he began to nuzzle my face all purrs and kisses!

The vet clinic he was dropped off at vowed to care for him financially/medically in whatever he would need provided that I fostered him and his sister (Taloola) to which I agreed. Little did I know that Bart would become apart of our little family, our “land of misfit toys” with the rest of the “handipets” here!

The fateful day came for Bart to get neutered so I brought him to the clinic he was dropped off at (that had vowed to provide any medical care he needed) as they ran the pre-surgical bloodwork and found his white blood cell count (which indicates if there is infection present or not) was three times the normal limit! I discussed with the veterinarian that came as no shock to me since his left eye had long ruptured (which the veterinarian knew this) and needed to be removed immediately. The vet skirted around the topic of removing his ruptured eyeball until finally hesitating slightly only to mumble,

“It is just not “financially responsible” for us to remove his eye and eat that cost…”

They said that in addition to NOT removing his ruptured eyeball they would not be neutering Bart (or repairing his hernia) since he had an infection (of course all I could think in my brain was DUH his EYEBALL IS GONE! Of course he has an infection!!) The veterinarian then continued the conversation with those fateful words that I would NEVER EVER forget…

“He is only a stray. It is not like he is anyone’s pet.”

There is was. Out in the atmosphere for everyone to hear. HE.WAS.ONLY.A.STRAY. As if that negated the fact that he was not worthy of quality medical care and patience! It took everything in me to keep silent, bite my tongue and take Bart back to my house and plan my next move but one thing was absolutely certain Bart was no longer going to be a stray, he was no longer going to be alone or have no one to advocate for him — because he was going to be my baby.

After some grumbling on my part and persistence (e.g., a thorn in someone’s side) they agreed to remove his non-functioning left eye, repair his hernia and neuter him to which everything seemed to go off without issue — Bart came home to me and began his road to recovery as well as learning to scoot around the house missing an eye (and clouded vision in the right eye) but I noticed as time went on something was off? He was still just as congested and “crusty boogie” covered as he was when he first initially came to my house! Despite the menagerie of antibiotics, pills, vet visits he was still just as stuffed up as if nothing had changed.

By this time I was working at an amazing veterinary clinic with amazing doctors so I wasted no time bringing the “handicats” in to meet everyone (aka flirt with the girls) and after we accomplished a few diagnostics for Bart (radiographs, bloodwork, culture swabs etc.,) it was decided that the doctor would perform an exploratory procedure and reopen that left eye to see what was causing him so much drainage and discharge.

Once the doctor finished Bart’s exploratory procedure she came to show me what was causing Bart all of his boogey issues for almost a YEAR — a 4×4 piece of pus covered gauze as well as sutures that should have been absorbable and they were not. After she removed the foreign items from Bart’s eye socket he began to recover… again. But this time I noticed that he was much happier, the day after his surgery he joined me in bed and began to rub his face on mine all while purring and nuzzling me. It was almost as if he was grateful for helping him, for not giving up on him and for being his advocate…his voice and more importantly his “mama”.

It disappointed me to think that there were still veterinary professionals, clinics, rescues out in the world that were so quick to “write-off” a stray animal simply because they were a stray, because they required a little bit of empathy and understanding, because they were simply a “black cat”. Bart was just as worthy as any other animal of receiving proper medical care and love!

Each and every day I was thankful I answered the phone that day- the day that I got the call informing me this scared, sick little kitten needed me. Today, Bart is a happy, healthy, ornery, affectionate little boy with a toybox packed to the brim with a plethora of toys, and I am thankful for him each and every day as he teaches me about dedication, strength, resiliency in the face of adversity and of course– affection. If you would have told me that fateful August day when I brought Bart home that years later I would have a sweet, cuddly little boy I would have laughed! I would never have believed the positive transformation he has completed but I could not be more proud of him.

Happy Belated Birthday, Bart. I love you so much little boy, thank you for being part of the driving force behind this campaign. To be a voice for those who do not have a voice and even more so for those animals that are a little “special”. Thank you.

Trials & Tribulations of BART

“Bart!” a video created by our friends over at Meow as Fluff! Check them out Meow as Fluff Site

Bart came to my house the late summer/early fall of 2017 from a local veterinary clinic where a friend worked who called me in a panic one afternoon alerting me to “two small sick kittens that were dumped off at the clinic” — a small, yet affectionate calico (we later named Taloola) and a terrified, mousey black kitten (who later became Bart) both were riddled with fleas and both had a RAGING upper respiratory infection that caused their eyes to be crusted shut with thick greenish yellow discharge as well as sneezing/audible breathing and the occasion booger bubble.

My friend informed me that the smaller black kitten seemed to have suffered the most damage — coming to them with a broken back leg (they suspect something attempted to eat him judging by the puncture wounds matching up with the now healing break), a hernia and his left eye had ruptured totally – no doubt due to the ongoing, untreated upper respiratory they both were suffering.

My friend prepared me for the worst when it came to the little black kitten – she informed me that he was not nice or affectionate and anyone that adopted him would have to understand and agree that he would just simply “live” out his days within the home and may never actually warm up to people. The veterinary clinic agreed to continue medical care/vaccinations and eventually “fixing” them both just as long as I agreed to foster them temporarily.

Reluctantly I agreed. Something in my gut was pulling me towards that sick, meek little black kitten that cowered beyond belief anytime anyone remotely came near him.

Luckily I went with my gut because it paid off in the end (mainly for Bart as he is now living his absolute best and happiest life!).

The veterinarian at this clinic did not believe Bart’s eye had ruptured yet (when indeed, it had) so they attempted to have me continue to place eye ointment on an eye that no longer was there (it was losing pressure quickly and seeped constantly) as well as a menagerie of antibiotics to help combat the gnarly URI he had (Taloola at this point had healed up nicely without any issue or chronic complications & now lives with her forever home not far from where we live!) all without any improvement or success.

When it came time to neuter Bart I brought him back to the veterinary clinic he had originally been dumped off at (the clinic that had agreed to assume all veterinary/medical care for BOTH Bart & Taloola) only to be informed that his bloodwork was showing his white blood cell count was well over 30,000 (a normal, healthy cats white blood cell count is roughly 4,900 to 20,00 depending on the cat’s age etc.) which indicated he had an infection “somewhere” and they were unable to neuter him.

Frustrated. I told them I could pinpoint where the infection was- his left ruptured eyeball. It needed to come out or that infection would continue to drain and he would never improve and his respiratory symptoms would continue without fail.

This particular veterinarian (who again, may I stress agreed upon me fostering these kittens to assume all veterinary/medical care for them) looked over the scared, miserable looking kitten only to reply to my infection discovery with, “we feel that since this kitten is simply a stray, it is financially irresponsible for us to remove that eyeball and with his bloodwork indicating an infection we also do not feel it best to neuter him either…”

Friends believe me when I tell you that as he was explaining that since this was “no one’s cat” and simply a “stray” that his clinic refused to care for the clearly obvious issue — something they had agreed they would do upon my acceptance to foster these two kittens — I saw RED.

At that point I had decided that this sad, sorry looking little black kitten was going to be MY KITTEN. It did not matter to me that he did not want to play or be affectionate. It did not matter to me that he hid most of the time and the only time I was able to corral him out from under the bed was when my husband and I played “defense” with a yard stick and a broom handle and gently coaxed him out from his hiding spot while the other prepared to grab him — all that mattered was that he was now SOMEONES’S CAT and would never have to worry again about where his next meal came from or if he would receive quality medical care or the fact he could no longer be written off as “simply a stray”. Bart was now MY cat and my newest addition to the ragtag band of misfits I had at home to love and care for.

[Needless to say Bart NEVER, EVER went back to the above mentioned veterinary clinic]

Eventually, EVENTUALLY Bart was able to get neutered (his hernia repaired while they neutered him) and his left eye removed (or the tattered remains of his left eye) and after a long, long road (with said veterinarian who removed his left eye “accidentally” leaving in his eye socket a piece of gauze and suture material so that eventually had to be corrected) he is now a happy, healthy, sweet, affectionate, ornery kitten who put his rough and rocky start to life behind him only to see better, loving and snack filled days ahead of him.

Bart was a “broken” black kitten with no type of personality or affection thus he was simply written off as just another stray, another hopeless and worthless cause but all he needed was for someone to be HIS advocate. For someone to not give up on him and to be soft spoken, compassionate, patient and kind with him. In time (and thousands of snackies later…) Bart realized that my husband and I were “OK people” and truly cared for his health and well-being. Bart then began to come up for cuddle time- with zero regards to personal space he would climb on top of your chest while you were in bed and sandwich his sweet little face against yours as he purred the most audible, soothing, sweet and satisfying purr one has ever heard before.

Bart has no idea that he is part of the “handicat” duo I affectionately rave about to anyone who will listen, in fact Bart is no different than my other cats living at home with us – he eats and drinks without issue, he runs and plays and has “question marks” (where his tail curls up into what looks like a question mark — this is how my husband and I know he is going to be the most playful/ornery) and I really believe he has NO clue that he should have two eyes instead of simply one (due to the severe URI he had suffered that caused his left eye to rupture but also left severe scar tissue covering his right eyeball. The veterinarian he see’s now and LOVES believes that Bart can see a little bit though how clearly he can see is up for debate).

Bart is part of the inspiration for “Bifford for President” because for as many adversities as Bifford has endured in his life Bart has battled just as many (if not more) and he is only four years old (Bifford is ten years old) and despite (at the time) not being “anyone’s cat” and “just a stray” he was still entitled to the SAME quality of care and standards of a cat who was not a stray and had a home. Bart is a living being worthy of good quality care and a good quality life. Between both of my “handicats” I had work to do as far as education & advocacy went (sadly enough most of my work focuses on veterinary clinics/staff that seem misinformed or upholding the stigma that surrounds these sweet babies).

Bart is the reason. Bart is MY reason why I stress to families to give that scared, sad kitten/cat a chance! If I would have looked at Bart that very first time and made a snap judgement then I would not have taken him home most likely. I had early on admitted to my husband that Bart was most likely going to be our “cellar dweller” – not wanting to be near us, not being affectionate or a “normal kitten” I had made it up in my mind that if he was okay not wanting our attention and spending his days hiding under furniture at least he was safe, indoors and getting regular meals and a nice warm bed in addition to regular, gold standard veterinary care.

Bart had proved me wrong and continued to inspire me to advocate and rally for these babies – the “broken” or the “scared”.

So I ask you to keep “fighting the good fight” when it comes to specially-abled animals! Be their voice! Speak up and speak out against any atrocities or ill informed stigma that envelope these sweet, special babies… you might be surprised to find your next animal “soulmate” waiting for you!