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Benjamin Button

Editor's note: The first chapter of Benjamin's story is told below by Eve E. Franks of The Animal Rescue Alliance (T.A.R.A)

"I am with a rescue group in Kansas City, Missouri, and we get emails from people wanting help with their cats and dogs on a daily basis. One such request came from a woman who wrote that her sister had over 20 cats, all living outside, none spayed or neutered, and all looking sick.

We went to check it out, and while most of the cats fled from us, one just sat under a bush and we were able to pick him up. I have never seen anything like it, and I have been doing cat and dog rescue for 20 years and have many amputees and pets with chronic illnesses myself. This cat defied description. His front legs were folded over in three places, his nose was deformed, and one eye was completely shut. He was not able to stand or walk. When we ... first saw the cat, he was covered with feces, grime, and fleas. Naturally, he had not been neutered despite being a mature adult. 

When I asked the woman what happened, she told me that a shelf fell on him when he was about six weeks old and that he was now about four or five [years old].

Needless to say, I took him home... Our vet checked him out and said that there was nothing that could be done for him, as the injuries were just too old, and that it was nothing short of a miracle that he survived for over four years outdoors. But, he was not in any pain and otherwise quite healthy... The probing, poking and cleaning up at the vet's office made him extremely fearful, and he cowered when anyone came near him.

After I took him home from the vet, I had the chance to observe him more closely. Benjamin, as I began to call him, managed to drag himself into the litter box, but it was hard to watch and he was never quite successful. He had trouble breathing because of his deformed nose and a severe upper respiratory infection that made the situation worse, but he clearly loved to be petted.
My home was not a good place for him because we admittedly have way too many animals, and I tried to find someone who lives in an apartment where he could be out and about (he can drag himself on his belly one inch at a time) and get love and attention, but we can't even get a healthy cat adopted in this town. My daughter wanted me to have him euthanized ... but whenever I thought of the absolute horror his life must have been, I couldn't bring myself to do it. We hope Benjamin can find a happy home at your facility, as he has obviously had such a horrendous life."

Editor's postscript: Our thanks to Eve and her dedicated rescue group for not giving up on Benjamin and ensuring he made it safely to Home for Life®. The second chapter of his story is beginning here at the sanctuary, and is told below.
At Home for Life, we call him Benjamin Button because, like the title character in the movie of the same name, our Benjamin seems to grow younger in appearance with each passing day. Initially timid and cowering, Benjamin staked out a cupboard in the isolation room of the north cattery and hid there for the first few weeks. But gradually, as he has felt better with treatment for his upper respiratory infection, he has become more confident and content, and exhibits a genial and charming personality.
Unlike the Benjamin Button in the movie, our Benjamin seems to be growing younger in spirit at HFL even as his poor broken body heals from the neglect and trauma he has endured.

Benjamin does get around despite his disability, although it is plain to see it takes a lot out of him to travel any distance. He must walk on what would be his forearms, sliding his paws along the ground and following up with his back legs. But he can hop onto the lower hammocks of the cat trees and also get on his chair when he wants.
Benjamin loves dry food, and only dry food, and is not interested in even the most delectable canned foods we offer him. His very favorite dry food is Fancy Feast. He is brushed a few times a week to help him keep his short coat handsome, and he loves to be pet and scratched under his chin.

Benjamin can now be found at any time resting on "his chair," an overstuffed donation from a supporter. When he sees our staff, whom he has grown to love and trust, he rolls on his back and shyly looks up to ask for attention.

Benjamin was used to living with other cats and has always felt comfortable and at ease at HFL, drawing comfort and courage from observing that the other cats felt safe at here. He has developed a special friendship with sweet Valentina, a younger female cat who was found barely surviving on a rural Minnesota farm. Somehow Valentina had suffered an amputation of her front leg and when rescued, part of the bone in her leg was sticking out! Benjamin and Valentina came from difficult circumstances that were very similar and seem to have always had a special empathy as a result.

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