Owl the Bionic Cat

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Owl posing for a recent photo shoot I did.

The day before my birthday something happened that cast a shadow over the rest of the week. My 12-year-old indoor/outdoor black cat named Owl hadn’t been waiting at the door that morning when I got up and despite my calling, she still hadn’t appeared a few hours later. I began to fear that something bad had happened to her.

Finally, when I took Jazzmin out around lunch time and called for Owl again, I thought I heard her meowing in response. It was windy that day, so it was hard to hear her, but I eventually found her sitting on a pile of wood next to my side storage shed. I walked up to her and called her, but she wouldn’t come to me, so I had to navigate the hedgerow prickers to pick her up and carry her inside the house.

After I brought Owl inside, I set her down on the floor and she didn’t stand up quite right. It looks like her rear legs were weak and I felt my heart sink into my feet. I’ve dealt with cats that have gotten suddenly sick before and I feared the same had happened to Owl. I was afraid she had some illness that wasn’t treatable and that she was going to pass away.

I gently placed Owl on the couch where she sort of collapsed and just laid down for a while. Her breathing was rapid and there were gurgling sounds coming from her chest. I had no idea what was wrong, but I didn’t think it was good. When I’d pick her up a certain way, she’d growl at me and her growling set all the other cats on high alert and made a couple of them poof out in confusion.

When I picked up the girls from school, I said I’d found Owl and that she wasn’t doing very well, and I was afraid it might be time to say goodbye. I was crying when I told them and Jaycie started crying to because Owl is really her cat and they’ve grown up together. Wanting to do what I could for Owl, I called the vet when we got home, and they managed to fit Owl in that afternoon.

Owl had no trouble meowing her protests on the way to the vet and she definitely still had some life to her. When the vet examined her, I was shocked when she said that it felt like Owl had broken ribs. Owl had been fine the evening before when she went out and I was bewildered that something had injured her to that degree.

I agreed to the course of action that involved x-rays and pain meds and we all waited in the room for the results. When the vet came back, she said that Owl had at least three broken ribs and that the gurgling noises I’d heard was air escaping, which was common in such injuries. Hearing Owl had broken ribs was actually the best worst-case scenario because it meant we knew what was wrong and had treatment options.

The vet showed us the x-rays and said that it looked like there wasn’t any excess fluid and that her diaphragm hadn’t expanded dangerously as it can sometimes with such injuries. Looking at the x-rays, I could see a broken piece of rib just floating around inside Owl and I was in disbelief that a cat could survive that. The vet said that cats can do miraculous things and that she might recover from her injuries.

With a treatment plan that included taking Owl home, trying to keep her quiet, and giving her pain meds, the girls and I took Owl back home. She meowed the whole way home too and she seemed to have more energy than when we’d taken her to the vet.

As soon as we opened up the cat carrier inside the house, Owl tried to run and find a place to hide. Her back legs still weren’t working right (the vet wasn’t sure if she had a spinal injury too or not) but she was moving just as fast as ever. She eventually found a hiding place under the couch end table and we all held onto hope that she’d recover. The vet said she could have anything she wanted to eat, and she happily gobbled up half a can of wet cat food for dinner that night.

Owl slept under my bed that first night because it was relatively safe from the intrusions of the other cats. The next morning when I looked for her under my bed, she wasn’t there, and I was worried and surprised. I walked out into the kitchen and found her eating dry cat food and I was relieved and stunned.

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Owl wondering why I keep taking pictures of her.

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Owl up on my bed with Daisy and Angel. She doesn’t come up on my bed very often.

While I was still worried about Owl’s health on my birthday, I had hope that she’d recover, and I focused on being glad that she was still alive. The vet gave me pain meds to make Owl more comfortable as she healed but I only got one dose in her and she then hid under my bed out of reach for a day, so I decided not to do more meds. She never showed any signs of distress aside from when I gave her meds, so I figured she was okay without them. I don’t think I’d be so tough if I had broken ribs, but Owl is one very tough kitty!

Over the next few days, Owl’s condition rapidly improved and now almost two weeks later, she’s almost back to her old self.

I took Owl to the vet a few days ago and while she still has a protrusion of a broken rib and the rib piece still floating around, she’s doing very well. She’d also gained a half a pound because I’d been spoiling her with all her favorite foods including canned food, cheese, lunch meat, and anything else she wants. She’ll be spoiled for the rest of her life and I hope that’s many more years!

As far as what injured Owl, my best guess is a deer or other animal stomped on her when she came upon it. Owl isn’t an aggressive cat, she stays away from the road, and she doesn’t go near humans aside from myself, my girls, and my mom, so I think whatever happened was just an unfortunate encounter.

Watching Owl recover as she has and be the “tough old broad” I’ve come to know and love all these years that I’ve had her, she’s definitely become my hero. Dealing with her injury and being so worried we were going to lose her put everything in perspective and made things I used to worry about seem rather insignificant. I think this latest incident probably used up her nine lives, but I also think she must be partially bionic to still be going strong. I will definitely never underestimate the amazing abilities of cats again!