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49 Fire survivor: Burned, blinded cat purrs for lost owners

Mystery Auburn feline appears to be healing slowly
By: Gus Thomson Journal Staff Writer
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The unnamed cat’s paws are red and raw from walking on red-hot embers. Her eyes are singed and closed, their corneas both badly burned. Smoke filled her lungs and she had to be placed on oxygen for two days. But on Wednesday, a feline rescued from the 49 Fire and brought to the Loomis Basin Veterinary Hospital was purring through the pain. Now the veterinary clinic and Placer County Animal Shelter officials are hoping it can be reunited with its family. So far, no one knows who that family is or where it sought shelter after a fire that may have left them without their home. Dr. Jeralyn Terry, attending veterinarian, said the cat is still not eating and being back with her family could change that. But recovery could still be a long way off for a feline that withstood the horror of Sunday’s fire but may not recover its sight. The cat can regenerate its corneas and see again If it can’t, and remains blind, it could still continue to live a good life indoors in a loving home, Terry said. The feline – a copper-eyed female – is well-fed. It weighs in at 14 pounds. Markings showing through her burned fur indicate she’s probably a brown tabby. She appears to be at least five years old. “She’s just very quiet and certainly depressed,” said the animal hospital’s Dr. Erin Hatcher. “Right now, she’s just trying to rest.” In the heat and the smoke of the moment Sunday, a sheriff’s deputy handed the blackened cat off to a county employee but couldn’t say exactly where he picked it up from, said Mike Winters, county Animal Services Division manager. Between a county fund and the veterinary hospital, the tabby’s care will not cost the owners anything, said veterinarian Dr. Erin Hatcher. While the feline at the animal hospital is a survivor, many pets failed to get out of the fire alive. Diane Nicholas, of Gold Country Wildlife Rescue, said she toured the 49 Fire burn site in North Auburn on Monday and saw numerous domesticated animals consumed by the blaze, their remains within feet of their owner’s front door. No people were injured. Nicholas said she believed the devastation carried into wildland areas that were also burned over, as well as the many charred groves of oaks and pines that provided shelter for wild animals. “There were obviously young birds not equipped to fly that were engulfed by smoke and flames,” Nicholas said. “The same episode was being repeated for the raccoon, opossum, squirrels, fox, bobcat and deer.” Another survivor in the fire was the Animal Spay & Neuter Clinic at 3524 KOA Way. The path of the fire circled the parking lot but didn’t reach the building. The lone cat there also managed to retain one of its threatened nine lives. “It was like we had a bubble of protection around us,” board member Dede Shaw said.