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Emergency surgery for Nanaimo cat

Working together, animal agencies can save more animals – like Coco!

A near-tragedy has a happy ending – and a bonus lesson about how animal rescue organizations, working in partnership, can change the world for a single animal.

coco-flight-emergency-veterinary-surgeryCoco came to Nanaimo Animal Control Services when a member of the public called to say she had found a cat that she believed to be injured.

Carley Colclough, pound and adoption coordinator for Nanaimo Animal Control Services, knew at a glance that the injury was serious.

“In about 30 seconds, I said this cat needs to go to the vet immediately,” she recalls. “She wasn’t closing her mouth and I could tell that she was distressed.” She assumes the cat was hit by a car.

The vet in Nanaimo gave the cat, named Coco, pain control and took X-rays. The results showed that, in addition to several fractures in the lower jaw, there was also a break in her skull.

There are no veterinarians on Vancouver Island who can manage complex surgeries of this sort. A veterinary specialist on the Mainland estimated the surgery at about $5,000 – something neither the rescue agency nor the animal’s owner (who was found and surrendered Coco to the rescue) could afford.

“I started reaching out to my contacts,” says Carley, hoping to find an organization that could help save Coco’s life. Although Nanaimo Animal Control Services had not worked with RAPS before, Carley was formerly on the board of CatNap Society, which has transferred several FIV-positive cats to the RAPS Cat Sanctuary. “So I was aware of RAPS and knew how amazing it was.”

coco-emergency-veterinary-surgeryShe contacted Shena Novotny, the Adoption Centre and Sanctuary Manager for RAPS, and it was agreed that RAPS Animal Hospital would do the surgery.

One of the vet techs at the Nanaimo veterinary hospital volunteered to bring Coco to the Mainland by ferry. The surgery was performed on August 30. Five days later, Coco was flown by Harbour Air back to Nanaimo. There she was checked again by local vet and deemed to be recovering beautifully.

As is so often the case with animals, Coco’s resilience amazed her helpers.

“Even when I saw her when she first arrived, she was bright and alert and friendly — just with her mouth hanging open,” Carley recalls. “It’s just crazy to think that, from a human perspective, to have those kinds of injuries and still be behaving in a friendly way … She’s a pretty special little cat.”

Coco, who is about a year old, seems to have forgotten that she experienced a traumatic injury.

“I’m treating her like a fragile porcelain doll, but she feels that she’s ready for anything,” Carley says. “She’s just a dream to work with. She’s really easy and super happy. She loves having her time out of her kennel and wandering around supervised. She is mostly on kennel rest but she gets out for walkabouts with us. She eats everything I put in front of her. She’s eating soft food of course, but eating really well. I can’t keep up with her.”

When she is deemed adequately recovered, Coco will be put up for adoption.

Meanwhile, Carley is inspired by the teamwork across the rescue community.

“It kind of takes a village,” she says. “We had different volunteers doing transportation and your organization really stepped up. The animal community coming together to do this was a big thing for us.”