I follow a lot of animal rescue organizations on social media. As someone who volunteers for a local rescue and makes a living as a cat writer, it’s important for me to keep up with what’s happening in the rescue world, beyond my own city and experience. That’s how I learned about Bella (formerly named Fuzz), a three-month-old kitten who had been rescued from a bustling street in New York City on a cold day in January. Only Maine Coons Rescue (OMC), based in New Jersey, posted a photo of her, huddled in the corner of a room, with the caption “She is in pretty rough shape and will be heading directly to the vet for care. They are reporting that she has corneal scarring in both eyes. But can see shadows […] We’ll get her taken care of and on the road to recovery. Keep this wee one in your thoughts!” In my thoughts is exactly where she stayed.
Only Maine Coons Rescue has been around since 2012 and is based in New Jersey, functioning as a network of foster homes throughout the northeast and as far south as Virginia. I recently reached out to OMC to get more information about Bella and an update on her health, and was thrilled to be connected with Bella’s foster mom and active OMC volunteer, Vicky Wells. Bella, I learned, has feline herpes, a virus that she was probably born with. Feline herpes is very common and cats who have it can live long and happy lives when given proper veterinary care. Her eye damage was likely caused by a severe outbreak that went untreated. When Bella was rescued she had no vision in her left eye and very limited vision in the right eye. After meeting with a veterinarian and specialist, OMC got the great news that Bella wouldn’t need surgery and would be able to keep both of her eyes despite her complications. A small amount of pupil response was also detected in her right eye, giving hope for more recovery.
Despite her challenges and a rocky start to life, Vicky insists that Bella doesn’t know that she has a disability. “She’s in full kitten mode,” she says, “playing, getting into trouble. She has no clue that she has any issues. She’s sweet as can be and loves to play. She’s very good with using her litter box. She likes to paddle in water and plays in her water dish. She’s a healthy and happy kitten, she just has limited vision.”
Bella has settled nicely into her foster home and is enjoying her new life, which provides plenty of safety, love, play, food, and clean water. In the month since Bella’s rescue she has made an amazing amount of progress. She has been receiving daily drops in her right eye that have relieved her of all redness and inflammation. She can now see pretty well out of that eye and is having a blast chasing, hunting, and pouncing on everything in sight.
Once her eyes heal a bit more, she gains a little weight, and finishes her vaccines she’ll be ready for adoption. Though she’s not ready to be adopted quite yet, Only Maine Coons Rescue is prepared to accept applications from interested Furever Families. Because of the highly contagious nature of feline herpes, Bella will need to be adopted into a home that has no other cats or with cats that already also have the virus. Bella will have future outbreaks and will be contagious to other cats during those times. The virus is only contagious to other cats and cannot be spread to humans or other species of animals.
Learning about Bella’s story has reiterated something that I already knew: It doesn’t take a village to save an animal’s life, but it sure does help. Bella’s support system has been widespread—from the people who found her on the street, to the folks who brought her to OMC, to the medical professionals who cared for her eyes, to her foster mom Vicky. Every step of the way, Bella had a team of caring people on her side.
In addition to the chain of locals, the bulk of Bella’s medical expenses were raised through social media campaigns and at the Super Pet Expo, an event in New Jersey where OMC recently had a table. Every dollar donated has helped create a safe, happy, and healthy future for this kitten who surely would have died on the streets of NYC without the persistent care and kindness of big hearted strangers. If you’d like to follow Bella’s story and contribute to her medical fund, please visit Only Maine Coons Rescue at www.omcrescue.org/fuzz.php and www.facebook.com/OnlyMaineCoonsRescue.
[Photos courtesy of Only Maine Coons Rescue]