By the time Samuel was found, his rescuers believed it was too late.
Trapped in a small cat carrier for most of his life, Samuel was skin and bones when he was brought to BARC, a municipal shelter in Houston, Texas. His eyes were swollen shut from mange and he was suffering from a long list of expensive medical issues. With such a poor prognosis, Samuel was scheduled to be euthanized as soon as the shelter’s required holding period was up.
Isolated from humans and other animals for two years, the naturally affectionate cat came close to never experiencing love. But just hours before he was slated to be put down, an employee at BARC put a photo online.
Lucky for Samuel, Leslie Raines, a vet tech in the Houston area, was home sick that day and stumbled upon his picture.
“Somebody had posted a picture of a really skinny cat that had tested positive for feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). I knew that wouldn’t give him a good start at trying to get out of the shelter, and he just looked so pathetic,” Raines said. “So I posted to some of the rescue groups saying that if I could get backing I would foster him.”
With no time to spare, rescuers with Save A Purrfect Cat Rescue (SAPCR) took in Samuel, and one of Raines’ clients at the clinic offered to be the sick cat’s “free ride.”
“She honestly thought he was going to die when he was in the car,” Raines said, “he was in such bad shape.”
When Samuel arrived at the veterinary office, medical treatment started immediately. The vets could see that he was dangerously thin and covered in mange, and had pressure wounds from being confined in a small space for a long time.
Despite his ragged appearance and flaky skin, Raines remained optimistic — and her friend knew Samuel had found the right person to help, saying, “I promise you there is a beautiful cat underneath all this, and we’re going to find him.”
A phrase that would become Raines’ mantra.
“As he started coming out of his shell more and more, it was as if he had to learn how to be a cat,” Raines said. “He didn’t know how to play. If you put him on a piece of furniture he would get down, and walking on the floor was like hot coals.”
As months passed, and Samuel’s thick black and white fur grew in, he still had fears to overcome. “His shadow surprised him every time he saw it, and his reflection in glass windows freaked him out — he was very, very suspicious of it,” Raines said.
When it finally came time to meet potential adopters almost a year later, Samuel reverted back to the frightened kitten he had once been around new people. His loving foster mom vetted each new home, but there was always something missing.
Until a man named Bryan Smith came across Samuel’s photo on PetFinder. Samuel reminded Smith of the Maine Coon he had lost to cancer the previous year, and when the two finally met, everything changed.
“The day I met Bryan, we brought [Samuel] up to the clinic, and Bryan just sat down on the floor next to the kennel and started talking to him. The look on Samuel’s face was completely different than it had ever been — he just relaxed,” Raines said. “Bryan just had such a calm demeanor and was OK with moving slowly.”
But Raines wasn’t entirely convinced until Sam told her in no uncertain terms that he was ready to move on.
“At one point [Sam] came over and mewed at me, and then he walked over to Bryan. It was as if he was telling me, ‘This is it,’” Raines added.
In just a year, Samuel transformed into the handsome, fluffy cat he was meant to be.
Now happily home with his new dad, the two are healing together.
Samuel has conquered his fear of furniture, jumping up on the bed and dining room chairs. He kneads his paws contentedly every time Smith tells him that he’s a good boy.
Now comfortable and loved, Samuel loves looking out the window at the squirrels — even with his reflection staring back.
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