After a cat was brought to the PRC with life-threatening injuries, a compassionate foster parent volunteered to rehabilitate and love him
Note: This story was originally published on Jan. 4, 2024
Barnacle Boy is thought to have been only 2 years old when he came dangerously close to using up all of his nine lives. He was found in a cat trap in Plant City and suffered severe injuries, most likely from being hit by a car. He had fur torn off his hind legs and cuts all over his boney, undernourished body. Luckily for Barnacle Boy, a foster parent at the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center (PRC) opened her home and heart to help heal him.
Barnacle Boys "Tail"
Barnacle Boy was brought to the PRC in early March 2023. It was there that he was affectionately named and began his medical recovery. Like many stray cats taken to the PRC, he was underweight and missing patches of fur. Sadly, the worst of his injuries are thought to have come from being hit by a car. He had deep cuts on his head and face and lost skin from his hind legs. A gaping wound in his groin area exposed bleeding muscle and tissue. At the time, it was assumed that he would need one, if not both, of his hind legs amputated.
Fortunately for Barnacle Boy, he received timely, expert treatment from the Hillsborough County PRC veterinary team. As a result, it was determined that he could keep all his paws. However, it became clear that he would need a foster home-a healthy environment to heal and rest-if he was going to get better.
But who could give him the time and hands-on medical attention that would be essential to his recovery? Not only did Barnacle Boy require several doses of medication daily, but he also had to return to the PRC weekly for ongoing medical procedures, including skin grafting. He had a lot of needs and no one to closely look after him.
A hero with heart
That's where Katie McCarey comes into the picture. McCarey has been fostering cats and dogs since she was 16 years old. She estimates that she's taken in thousands of animals since she started fostering as a teenager. The numbers add up when you count the litters of kittens and puppies McCarey and her family routinely welcome into to their Tampa home. There, waiting to greet the foster pets, are McCarey's dog, Bentley, and her cats, Lucas and Max. All were rescued from shelters.
McCarey came across Barnacle Boy in an urgent PRC email calling for help with rehabilitating the cat. The attached photo showed an orange tabby with downcast, golden eyes and scratches on his face. Most of his left hind leg, side, and belly were bald after having been shaved for surgery. In the picture, Barnacle Boy was slumped in his kennel, covered in bandages. Instead of looking into the camera, the injured cat stared off into a void of kitty grief. It only took one glance at the photo for McCarey to know she was meant to take Barnacle Boy under her loving care.
With the help of her three children, McCarey regularly takes in and tends to animals too young or too sick to thrive in an animal shelter. Even though McCarey stays busy working as a pharmacist and raising her kids, she knows that fostering animals doesn't always come with a huge time commitment.
"It's easier than you think it is. All you need for kittens is a small little corner of your house with a setup of food, water, and litterbox. And you're actually saving lives. It's very rewarding for sure. And also, it teaches children compassion and volunteerism," McCarey said.
Road to recovery
Since Barnacle Boy moved in with the McCareys, he has undergone roughly 30 medical procedures, including surgeries to transplant skin from his back onto his legs and groin. Every week McCarey takes him to the PRC where he undergoes grafting, has his wounds cleaned, or has bandages changed.
The time he is spending under McCarey's warm and knowledgeable care has had a tremendous impact on his health and personality. McCarey has described him as nothing but a lover and a protector, especially when it comes to the litters of foster kittens she looks after.
When Barnacle Boy was brought to the PRC almost a year ago, he was bleeding, nameless, and alone. Today, he is on the road to a full recovery, snuggling with family, and enjoying his newfound favorite treats, chunks of sharp cheddar cheese. Once Barnacle Boy completes his medical treatment, he will be officially adopted by the McCareys. His new life as a beloved family member is just beginning.
Fostering a dog or cat can be an enriching and heartwarming experience. If you are looking for a way to bring extra joy into your home while helping a pet in need, consider fostering an animal from the PRC. The pet fostering process at the Pet Resource Center is easy.
For more information, visit the Hillsborough County Foster team page or call us at (813) 272-1157.