Eggy of Eglinton Road; A Rescue Story - The Happy Ending (Part Two)
(Warning - this post contains graphic content. Read Part One here.)
It was hard to make sense of what I was seeing.
First there was the blood.
It decorated the interior of the carrier in the style of a grisly Jackson Pollock. The walls were splattered, as was the mound of damp, dirty bedding on which Eggy was slumped. Leaves had blown into the open carrier off the street - and they too had collected small red puddles.
Wounds on stray cats, particularly unneutered male ones, are not uncommon. They fight, savagely, and the results can look alarming and yet be easily treatable if addressed quickly. But these wounds I didn't understand. The source of the blood was the cat's ears, which were shredded. They were a mass of scar tissue and open, weeping sores, and my first thoughts were of skin cancer, or that someone had hacked at them. Then there was the smell - of urine and damp, mingled with the unmistakably sweet odour of infection.
Most frightening of all though was the cat's lack of responsiveness. Eggy was lying face-down and barely registered the activity around him, while the instincts of any normal stray would be to look for an escape route. It occurred to me that we might be too late.
"We need to go straight to the vet," I told my mum, grimly, and we started the car. Throughout the whole journey, Eggy raised his head only once or twice to take in what was happening. Meanwhile, I was frantically messaging CatCuddles' volunteers, and the charity's Head of Welfare, Evina.
We arrived at CatCuddles' regular vet - who are excellent - with the all-clear to get Eggy whatever vet treatment he needed. The receptionist asked for a name to register him under and anxious and flustered, I pulled one out of thin air, thinking of Eglinton Road. He was Eggy from that moment on.
The vet winced when he saw him, and examined him tenderly, fingering his gnarled ears. The verdict wasn't skin cancer or mutilation - it was far more simple than that.
A flea infestation and subsequent flea allergy, combined with ear mites, and a build-up of wax and general dirt and grime, had caused Eggy's ears to itch intensely. And he'd scratched them - and scratched and scratched until they were cut to pieces. New wounds were created each time and the older ones re-opened again and again, becoming infected, but the itching was more unbearable than the pain, so Eggy just kept on scratching.
He was also emaciated, dehydrated, had cat flu symptoms, and the vet suspected FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus). Of course, he was neither microchipped nor neutered, which also explained some old fight wounds on his poor, frail body - he probably had no chance of defending himself against other unneutered males, and as I established in my previous post, there were plenty of those in Eglinton.
"How old do you think he is?" I asked, and that was the next blow. The vet checked his teeth and his testicles and concluded that he was five or under. He looked triple that, at the least.
My mother and I held Eggy while the vet began cleaning the accumulated grime and filth from inside his ears. Soon there was a pile of cotton wool and cotton buds heaped on the examination table, coated in black and red. The filth just kept on coming.
More than once we had to hold down Eggy's back legs as he tried to scratch his ears. Prevented from resuming his destructive habit, but desperate for relief, he shook his head instead, each time splattering my mum, the vet, the walls, with blood and tissue. At one point, my mum had a piece of bloodied something hanging from her glasses.
We shared a shaky, macabre laugh as she flicked it off. Our arms were streaked with dirt and blood.
Eventually Eggy just gave up fighting all together, and that was almost worse. He put his head down as he had in the car, and let the vet get on with it, barely registering injections of subcutaneous fluids, painkillers, and antibiotics. He didn't know that we were helping him, all he knew was that we were hurting him. And he just gave in and let it happen, like he was used to being hurt. And that was just so awful, and it would stay with me for a long time.
I wanted to take him home so, so badly.
It would have been a terrible mistake - as mentioned in part one, my cat, Mylo, was in fragile health, at risk of a urinary obstruction if subjected to stress. Eggy was too weak to be neutered, and the pheromones of unneutered male cats are a known stressor to other cats. But I wasn't thinking straight; there was no space at CatCuddles, and he had no-where to go. And anyway - I just wanted to fix him. I wanted to get him home and make him warm and comfortable and safe.
Thankfully, Evina, CatCuddles' Head of Welfare, talked some sense into me, firmly refusing to let me do that for Mylo's sake. A flurry of tense phone calls, texts and emergency appeals on social media later, a cat at CatCuddles' main base had been moved to a last-minute foster carer, opening a space up for Eggy. If you were ever in need of evidence that fostering saves lives - well, there you have it.
And so Eggy had spent his last ever night on the street. He went to CatCuddles, where his bowl was filled and his heater turned up. Best of all, with flea and parasite treatment administered, the itching had stopped. He no longer attempted to scratch. Can you imagine the relief? The pain, the hunger, the frustration - it was all over in that moment.
He had cat flu symptoms, so was put into an isolation suite. Each day his ears had to be painstakingly cleaned out by either Evina or us volunteers, and drops administered. He was so filthy that his bedding was disposed of on an almost daily basis, since it would quickly become black with grime and flea dirt no matter how many times we groomed him.
He was confirmed as FIV positive, and put on a specialised diet since blood tests revealed declining renal function. He ate every meal like he expected not to eat again for week, but his emaciated body struggled to digest the sudden influx of food. He had chronic diarrhoea, and gained weight painfully slowly; his full belly hung from his bony frame.
And he was listless. He sat hunched in the corner of his suite, trembling, tolerating treatment and attention from the volunteers like a cat who had just given up. We monitored him, tense, wondering which way the pendulum would swing.
I can't remember how long it took for the change to happen, just that it did. Slowly, he started to respond to being stroked - purring, head butting hands. His fur, once bedraggled and oily, started to grow out in chocolate-covered waves, and when you touched it, your hands no longer came away tinged with dirt. The wounds on his ears were drying up, and he left the corner of his suite and sat in the sun, mewing at passing volunteers. He had begun to heal at last.
I was on duty at CatCuddles HQ the day he did his first solid poo, an absurd thing to celebrate, but we did.
Weeks passed, and with each he looked a little better, was a little friendlier, more interested in the world around him. A fundraising appeal on social media for his vet bills had attracted an overwhelming response, and subsequent attention to his case. Before long, he had an adopter lined up - a family who chose him, despite younger, healthier and less complicated cats being available at CC.
He stayed until his health was stable, his weight a steady 5kg, his kidney function returning to normal, his cat flu symptoms abating. And then he was gone.
I used to ache thinking about Eggy, but I don't any more. Someone failed him horribly once in his life, but many others, countless others, put him back together again; the last-minute fostering volunteer who opened up a space for him, the vets who treated him, the volunteers at CatCuddles who cared for him on a daily basis, the dozens of people who donated for his treatment, the volunteers who wrote his adoption profile and coordinated his adoption, and finally, his adoptive family, who gave him the rest of his life.
A daisy chain of small acts of kindness that all together, got Eggy to where he is today. Which is right here;
“Little update on Eggy. When I came home this afternoon he was snoozing on the bed rather than hiding under the wardrobe so definitely progress! He eats like he doesn’t know when he’ll eat again. He seems to have completely fallen for M. He's been purring on his chest for over an hour and even gave his face a lick. "
“Little update on Eggy. He’s settling in really well so far (touch wood!) He’s an absolute hero and is getting more and more confident. He’s super snoozy all day and turns into a little rascal in the evenings. He loves chasing hairbands and his toy mouse. He sits in the sink chatting to me in the mornings when I do my makeup and he sleeps in between us at night. The bromance between him and M continues... only thing we need to work on are his manners when we’re having dinner...”
"A little update on Eggy. He’s been with us for 2 months now but feels like much longer. He’s still tearing about the house after ping pong balls and pom-poms. You can easily spend an hour batting things back and forth with him - he’s got unbelievable aim. He’s still a naughty little rascal at meal times but I let him sit on a chair at the table because I think he also just likes being included with us. We love him SO much and honestly I could just cry looking at his little face sometimes..."