Talk about nine lives – Ollie, a 1-year-old Egyptian Mau, was rescued from the streets in Egypt where he was left to fend for himself and suffered a nasty wound to his back side that resulted in a trip to a vet in Cairo and surgery, which included amputation of his tail.
Although no one knows for sure what happened, his Egyptian rescuer said the vet believed he was struck or caught on something sharp and severed part of his intestine and broke his tail.
But more help and care than is available in Cairo was needed for Ollie to recover from the wound, find treatment for other maladies and make the best of the remaining lives he has left. Enter Fancy Cats Rescue Team, founded in 1997 by Catherine McCullough Awad after she recognized the problem of abandoned cats — in the Washington, D.C. area and beyond — that had little chance of survival due to illness, injury, abandonment or age.
“We heard about two kitties that were down on their luck in Cairo,” said Fancy Cats’ volunteer Angela Bell who played a key role in bringing the Egyptian kitty to Washington, D.C. “We were asked to help and of course opened our doors to these poor souls.”
That’s no small feat considering the coordination and cash it takes to bring cats from Cairo to New York and then Washington, D.C. Bell estimates the flights for the cats cost about $400. Additional costs included a caregiver for the cats, vet bills, food and regular care.
Even with all the pieces in place, results are not always positive. Tom, an orange tabby whose rear legs were paralyzed, died soon after he made the trip from Cairo to the United States. He wasn’t able to even try out the $225 wheels that were purchased for him through donation.
After Tom’s death in March, Fancy Cats learned about Ollie and agreed to take him.
After his arrival, Ollie may have suffered a fate similar to Tom’s if Bell, who is fostering him, hadn’t noticed that he became despondent soon after his rescue. After rushing him to the vet, it was discovered that he had an intestinal blockage likely due to his previous surgery. Two additional procedures later, Ollie is back with Bell and progressing toward health.
“When I picked him up at the vet, he was more his normal self, talkative and alert,” said Bell of the 7-pound, small-boned cat. “He wants to run and explore everything but we have to keep him in a cat condo until everything completely heals… He is on medications now and we’re monitoring him. He is a special needs kitty. How special needs isn’t yet known.”
But the degree of illness isn’t an issue for the Fancy Cats’ team that arranges long-term fostering for special needs cats that can’t find forever homes.
“I thought [these cats] deserved some good luck knowing that we can find him their forever homes,” said Awad on her decisions to accept the Egyptian cats — and other with equally vexing conditions. “We specialize in the harder to place cats. They all deserve a chance so we like to help as a last resort when no one else does. When I started Fancy Cats I wanted to help cats specifically on the euthanasia lists. Other rescues usually take only the very adoptable.”
Megan O’Connell Armstrong, another Fancy Cats’ volunteer who has fostered and cared for dozens of cats such as Tom and Ollie, said that injured and ill cats need advocates.
“In America, there are laws pertaining to humans with disabilities. Since no such laws exist for cats, humans must step up and advocate on their behalf,” she said. “Fancy Cats is proud to be a voice for these cats.”
Fancy Cats continually posts updates about Ollie and other special needs cats on their websites and accept donations to further their mission.
“Even $10 helps,” said Bell. “A lot of special needs can’t don’t find forever homes and we want to support the foster families every way we can.”