Pebbles, an itty bitty kitten weighing less than two pounds, arrived at the Humane Society of Utah’s St. George Clinic in the Summer of 2021 with a painfully swollen eye. Her eye was simmering with infection making it completely unusable. Pebbles didn’t have a family to look after her – she was a junkyard kitten who had grown up with a large feral cat colony that lived in a dumping ground littered with broken-down car parts and decaying trash.
Teaming up to help Pebbles
Fortunately for Pebbles, she had been trapped and brought to our clinic by Kris Neal, who volunteers for a local rescue called The Jackson Day Foundation. This rescue took Pebbles in after she had been trapped for our Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program. TNR involves fixing, vaccinating, and ear-tipping feral and stray cats, then returning them to their territory. TNR is a humane way to control the community cat population and stop the spread of fatal viruses, such as rabies and distemper.
After assessing Pebbles, our veterinarian, Dr. Gray, was deeply concerned. She’d discovered Pebbles had a severe upper respiratory infection that had moved up into her eye and was causing so much pressure that her eye would need to be removed immediately. Dr. Gray explained, “I was concerned because putting animals as small as Pebbles under anesthesia is incredibly risky. Most veterinarians won’t do it because of the risks involved, but Pebbles’ infection was so bad that if it continued to go untreated, it would most likely move into her lungs and other areas of her body, and she would die. So, performing eye removal surgery for her was critical to saving her life.”
Kelsie Watters, HSU’s St. George Clinic Manager, also knew that only a few veterinarian clinics in St. George have the capacity to help out the feral cat population, HSU being one of them. She shared, “For our staff, it doesn’t matter if the animal has a paying owner or is feral and without a home; we treat them all with the highest standard of care possible. Every pet’s health matters to us, even pets like Pebbles, who are not a priority to most.”
The surgery went well, but not without a hitch. Pebbles’ eye had so much built-up pressure that it ruptured as Dr. Gray removed it. But thankfully, Dr. Gray was able to stabilize her, and Pebbles’ recovery went smoothly. She went home with Kris, who looked after her and gave her antibiotics so her little body could heal.
Two kittens are better than one
While at Kris’ home, she found that Pebbles didn’t like touching or cuddling, which is not uncommon for feral cats. But to Kris’ surprise, Pebbles began to bond with another kitten, Daisy. Eventually, the two became buddies. One day, two women named Belinda and Beth came to adopt Daisy, but Kris told them that Pebbles and Daisy were now a bonded pair and that if they wanted one, she’d have to adopt the other.
Kelsie shared, “Belinda and Beth recognized that this was a special pair and decided to adopt both Daisy and Pebbles so they could stay together. Kris periodically sends updates on Pebbles, who has completely transformed in her new home. She now loves being cuddled and sung to by her caring adopter. It’s nice knowing that this junkyard kitten who had suffered so much now has a loving, happy life, thanks to our and Kris’ team. Everyone went the extra mile for Pebbles because we knew we were her last resort, and her transformation is what makes our work worthwhile.”
Over a year later, Kris brought a sweet and affectionate kitten named Polly into HSU’s St. George Clinic, who was in the same situation as Pebbles. She was a tiny feral kitten with a very infected eye who had been trapped for TNR and needed medical care. Dr. Gray performed the same eye removal surgery on Polly, who was up and ready to play again the next day. Kris is caring for Polly and keeping her from being too active while she recovers. When Kris shared Polly’s story with Belinda and Beth, they knew Polly was meant to be in their family, too. Once Polly is healed from surgery, she will join her new sisters, Pebbles, and Daisy, in their home.