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Coal Seam cat has eight lives left

Lynn Burton

“Flame” is a short-haired black cat at the moment, but Dr. Judi Leake thinks longer hair might have saved the cat in the Coal Seam Fire.

“We’ve found some longer hairs, and think this is a long-hair cat,” the veterinarian explained as she stroked the recently named Flame. “She was burned all over. Had she been a short hair cat, I think it (the fire) would have burned her skin.”

Dr. Leake owns Red Hill Animal Health Center in Carbondale. She said Carbondale teenager T.J. Graf brought in Flame after a firefighter found her in the burned-out part of Robin Hood Trailer Park, four days after the fire.

Leake said she’s no fire expert, but she speculates the fire flashed over the cat.

Flame was in pretty bad shape when she was found. Her paw pads were burned red and raw. Her ear tips were burned to the skin, her whiskers were burned off, and the corneas in her eyes were damaged. Flame was also dehydrated and in pain.

“She was in trouble,” Leake said. “If she’d been out another night, she’d have been in serious shape.”

Flame arrived at Red Hill at about 7:30 p.m. on June 12. Leake put her on fluids, pain medication and antibiotics. She also bandaged Flame’s white paws. Leake said Graf was first going to take Flame to the Colorado Animal Rescue shelter at Spring Valley, but it was closed.

“I said, `Bring her to the clinic,'” Leake said.

The next morning, Graf suggested Flame be taken up to the shelter, but Leake vetoed the idea in a friendly way.

“I said `No.’ We want to contribute something. Plus she needed nonstop veterinary care, which we were happy to give,” Leake said.

Now, Flame moves about easily in her cage.

Flame’s paw bandages came off on Thursday, and she could go home Monday – if her owner can be found.

If not, here’s a little more about Flame, who in a previous life might have answered to Joni (as in Mitchell), Nashville (as in the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Nashville Cats”), or Watch Me Eat.

“She eats when you watch her … or put a finger in her bowl,” Leake said, as she moved around bits of dried food and Flame nibbled.

Leake and Flame are getting along pretty well. “She’s so sweet,” Leake said as Flame arched her back and stretched.

Leake said Flame is about a year old, or maybe 18 months, and isn’t a feral cat. For one thing, Flame uses her litter box, “And she’s way too sweet to be a feral,” Leake said.

Flame is expected to make a full recovery, although it will take a few months for her whiskers to completely grow back.

“She needs her whiskers back, but they’ve grown some already,” Leake said.

Rubbing Flame’s tummy, Leake said she isn’t sure how much weight Flame put on in her 10 days of relative inactivity.

“But look at this stomach,” Leake said proudly. “She’s plumping out here.”


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