Editor's note: Some photos attached to this article may be disturbing to some readers.
SPRINGVILLE — "Miss Kiss" is a beautiful shorthair tabby who likes to purr and appears to be a very content cat. But she recently suffered a traumatic injury caused by a blow dart.
And a veterinarian fears it was the second time someone had recently hit the cat with a dart.
Last week, a family walking along the Spanish Fork River Trail happened upon the young cat. They could see she had been shot in the head with a 4-inch blow dart and was in pain. The family gently carried her back to their car and took the animal to the South Utah Valley Animal Shelter.
The shelter reached out to Utah Valley Animal Rescue who then took her to Mountain West Animal Hospital for care.
"She was hurting and needed some attention, said Michelle Proctor, the adoption and rescue coordinator at the shelter. “And it does, it makes you mad. Any time you see anything like this it makes you very mad."
Veterinarian Isaac Bott can’t explain why someone would shoot a blow dart into a cat’s head. He only knew he had to get it out fast.
“I felt the prognosis was quite poor. Her heart rate was really irregular, and that’s the biggest problem. Just from that, without even taking X-rays, I knew that there was brain injury because of the heart rate,” Bott said.
“And taking the X-rays, I knew that we had to take that out as soon as possible. And of course with injuries like this, anesthesia is incredibly risky. Not only do you have the injury itself, but there’s potential complications with anesthetic recovery.”
The surgery was indeed tricky.
"It was definitely probably the most intense projectile removal I’ve ever had to perform,” Bott said. "The entrance angle is suggestive that she was eating out of a food dish when she was shot, unfortunately."
Bott was able to successfully remove the dart. He believes it barely missed arteries near the brain, which most likely would have resulted in death. Miss Kiss will live, but the dart did damage. She now has a slight head tilt, which Bott says is common for a brain injury to cats.
"It did travel through the brain. It did injure her right eye. I don't believe she can see right now. We're going to be able to reassess that in a couple of weeks,” he said.
The X-rays also revealed that the cat had previously been hit by another dart.
"There’s actually the tip of a dart that’s embedded in the humerus of the right leg. By the time that she presented to us, that lesion was completely healed. So that’s at least two weeks before this poor little girl was shot with another dart," he said. "Not only did she go through this trauma of the one going through her head, she also had one through her front leg at some point."
Utah Valley Animal Rescue says Miss Kiss is out of the hospital and is being taken care of by a foster family. Miss Kiss is on antibiotics and painkillers, and is slowly recovering. The rescue says she will likely lose her right eye. It has spent $2,020 so far, and anticipates another $500 for the eye surgery. It is accepting donations to cover the cost of her care. Donations can be made at Poundwishes.com under the name Miss Kiss.
A few years ago, the Utah Legislature made certain cases of animal abuse a felony. Bott feels this would certainly qualify as one.
“That's as cowardice as you can be to shoot a defenseless animal,” he said.
Now, the big question is who did this and why?
"There is no reason for it. There is none. We never understand the reasons why,” Proctor said. “She's still sweet. She's purring. She loves the attention."
“When you see something like this, yeah, it does break your heart,” he said.