Rescued cat returns the favor
Published: June 9, 2008 | 7144th good news item since 2003
Joey was a stray cat with asthma when Vanessa Hill rescued him from a colony of feral cats two years ago.
In early April, Hill says, Joey returned the favor by repeatedly waking her when she lost consciousness in a life-threatening ordeal with a blood infection that would hospitalize her for more than a month.
“He saved my life,” Hill said. “I love him to death.”
Felicia Cross, founder-president of Forgotten Cats, the nonprofit program that traps, neuters and releases cats living in feral colonies, gave Joey the title of Forgotten Cats Hero. Hill, a retired operating room technician, is a volunteer with the group.
She was caring for about 600 cats a month that the group trapped, then neutered or spayed. Most are returned to their colonies but Joey, then about 6 months old, was affectionate. It’s a sign he had lived with people, Cross said, “like many throwaway cats we find.”
His asthma didn’t deter Hill, who is also asthmatic. “He has his own little inhaler with a little mask and, once, he had to spend a couple of days in the hospital because his attack was so bad,” she said.
Cross said, “I think Joey knows Vanessa saved his life when he was a kitten. “He saw that she was in distress and kept resuscitating her. I think it’s a real miracle.”
In early April, Hill, 49, said she felt worn out, but blamed it on her asthma, which forced her into disability retirement and hospitalized her the month before. “I started sleeping a lot, although I didn’t notice that I was at the time,” she said.
Hill said it became an effort to feed Joey and her other rescue cats — Beans, Angel, Chief and Angus. But that day, Hill felt too weak get up and kept falling asleep.
“Joey kept jumping up on the bed trying to wake me up,” she said. “He kept standing on my stomach and it hurt real bad — that’s what made me get up.”
But Hill didn’t get far.
“I had to sit at the side of the bed for half an hour before I could even stand up,” Hill recalled. She made it to a kitchen chair.
“I went to feed the cat then call the doctor,” Hill said, but, “I went out like a light.”
The next thing Hill remembered, “I came to with him (Joey) nudging me to wake up.” The other pets were “just peeking around the corner at me, but Joey, he was the one who was just staying with me there, lying on the floor with me, nudging me.
“I still couldn’t get up so I had to scoot along the kitchen floor back to my bedroom to the phone and Joey scooted along with me.”
It was a struggle for Hill to get to the phone: “I started at 10 in the morning and got to the phone about 7 that night,” she said.
Hill called her sister, Cheryl Lewis, 51, who lived around the corner, and her uncle, Ernie Willitt, who lived next door. They found out that her ordeal had lasted not one day, but two.
“When I got to Vanessa’s, I noticed at least two newspapers there, so I knew she was out for at least two days,” Lewis said.
Lewis and Willitt took Hill to Christiana Hospital. She was admitted in critical condition, they said.
As Hill was treated with antibiotics and underwent tests, she said doctors told her she had a severe staph infection in her blood, “the kind that attacks the valves of your heart … and can kill you.”
Her kidneys were failing, she said, “and my blood pressure was like 80 over 50 and it was dropping; that’s why I was passing out.”
Later, she said, doctors found the infection had affected her heart.
Hill spent four weeks in at Christiana Care Health System’s Riverside Transitional Care in Wilmington.
Lewis said she has heard of dog heroics and rescues. “But you don’t hear about cats doing this kind of thing,” she said. And while Lewis is more a dog-lover, she said, “Joey’s something special.”
And the hero cat?
“Joey’s good,” Hill said. “My uncle brought him some turkey and I got him some treats. He loves treats — and he earned plenty of them.”