SARNIA, ONTARIO, CANADA- Even if cats have nine lives, Joe may have somehow acquired some extras along his way!
Sarnia’s now-internet-famous feline was a mere whisker away from death when he was found by the side of the road one winter after being shot 17 times, each time in the head, with a pellet gun. Two years have passed and Joe has made a remarkable recovery and is set to be featured in the next issue of Modern Cat magazine.
“You wouldn’t know he went through any trauma at all,” said Jenilyn Sheppard of Lime Hippo Pet Photography, who has taken photos of Joe for the Vancouver-based magazine.
She says Joe lazed around during much of the photo shoot and was better behaved than other pets who have posed for her.
“After everything he’s gone through — for lack of a better phrase — he’s completely bomb-proof,” she said.
On Feb. 2, 2014, a Good Samaritan brought the terribly injured Joe to the Sarnia & District SPCA. Shelter staff arranged to take him to an animal hospital for treatment. To pay for his hefty vet bill, they put out a call for donations on Facebook.
People were lining up to contribute even before the SPCA even opened, said assistant manager Alissa Scarpelli. “They had three people at the front desk just taking phone calls. It was immediate, the response.”
SPCA employees at work that day still talk about the outpouring of support Joe received, she added. “It was like nothing they ever experienced before.”
The campaign raised $33,000 — much more than was needed to cover the $6,000 vet fee. The difference was given to a local animal shelter that helps cover the cost of medical treatment for rescues.
Joe underwent several surgeries and in the end, lost his right eye. He then moved in with a foster family, where he has room to play in a fenced-in “catio” in the backyard, Scarpelli said.
Around town, Joe has become quite a celebrity. His Facebook page has more than 51,000 “furrends” now and last fall, he was invited to walk the red carpet at the second annual Sarnia cat film festival which was held at the Lambton County Library, the Sarnia Observer reported. (He didn’t end up appearing there, perhaps in an effort to cultivate his mystique.)
“He’s a big star,” said the page’s founder, Michelle Nicholson, who used to work in public relations and now devotes her time to community outreach and placing stray cats in foster homes. “I think I’ve seen fans from every country except the Vatican.”
Animal cruelty charges against a man accused of shooting Joe were dropped back in January because there was no longer a reasonable prospect of conviction. Nevertheless, Nicholson says a campaign to get “Justice for Joe” has been successful since it shone a light on animal abuse.
The Ontario SPCA investigated more than 17,000 complaints across the province last year and responded to 1,521 calls in the GTA, a spokeswoman said.
On Saturday, Joe is scheduled to meet his many fans in Sarnia and give “pawtographs” at a fundraiser for the local humane society.
“Although bad news travels faster than good usually, people always want to hear a good story with a happy ending,” Sheppard said.
Follow Joe the Cat on Facebook!