Cuba, a Canadian Vet, and One Very Lucky Orange Tabby


Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: February 7, 2023 by Crystal Uys

Guest post by Dr. Kristopher Chandroo

I stopped reading the news two years ago. Because one of the first things I would do while still in bed in the morning was to watch the headlines. But as the morning continued, the negativity that is modern news was like a cloud. If my daughter and the early morning rays of a new rising sun wasn’t enough to shake all the problems of the world off, then the news had to go.

So now when I hear about important things, it’s through a family member, people I work with and friends.

Like when my dad called me to tell me about this orange tabby.

Someone had damaged this little guy’s hind end.

Can you believe that?

You probably can.

Zack had passed on six months ago.

There isn’t such a thing as replacing a cat like Zack. Because he had been there through so many life milestones. Because he adopted us just as much as we adopted him.

But my dad had called, because he figured I could be the one to help this little guy.

Now I had seen this very same cat 3 years ago. He was a little orange tub sitting in the background, as I filmed a story about a cat named Bella looking for a home in Cuba. He had a cropped ear to identify him by, and the hotel would put out food for him. So he looked fat by Cuban standards. He was friendly enough so that people didn’t mind him around.
Well, someone did mind that he was around, and burned him so he would move on.

Maydelin, a young talented vet, found out about his plight from the hotel manager, and took him in. He lived in her garage (converted into a clinic), and over a year she performed multiple surgeries with help from her colleagues.

But this cat had a bad problem. No matter how many surgeries, his skin would fall apart.

He would not heal.

As a last resort, she put a 2 liter soda pop container around his neck so he would not lick his open wounds, and cleaned the ants crawling over him.

He would need someone who could take care of his needs for the long haul, when his needs might be complex…

And so Dear Zack, we miss you every day.

I know you won’t mind that this orange tabby came to live with us. Because there is no such thing as replacing you. But there are so many people and animals in need, and we’ve all got to do something, even if it’s just helping an orange tabby with a burned butt.

Maydelin brought Lenny to us when we arrived in Cuba months later. She had brushed him, made him handsome, did a comb-over over his open wound (less conspicuous during travel through airport security), and affixed him with a green bandana. It’s like what your mom would do before you went on a trip by yourself for the first time. And she cried. We left for the airport.

The Cuban airport can be unpredictable sometimes. I’ve gone through customs quickly as a breeze most of the time, and then others waited for a long time to have things confiscated.

When we got to the airport, I had to take him out of the carrier so they could put it on the xray conveyer belt. I thought there was a chance I would have to sprint after this guy in the airport if he spooked. I thought this little guy would get little mercy if he did.

But I was wrong.

In Cuba, the security people are primarily well trained women in very short skirts. And I just happened to be a guy walking through security with a big orange cat who just snuggled further into my arms. And he’s really cute (the cat that is). They just smiled at us and coo’d at the cat once our stuff was passed through the xray all in order.

In Canada, they didn’t even look at him (although I was ready to explain the wounds on him). They saw he had his rabies vaccine, I paid my money, and through customs we went.
Eventually we called him Lenny. Or rather my daughter Maddie did. He decided to live in the bathroom for the first 2 weeks. In his travel carrier. His burn injury looked infected.

I took pill pockets, put antibiotics in them, then rolled the whole thing in crushed up temptations treats. I called it his Tim Hortons “timbit”. Twice a day for six weeks, and slowly but surely, his skin began to glue itself back together.

Funny thing is, I haven’t taken him to the vet yet. I haven’t poked him with any needles. I’m just going to let him be. Let him eat. Bask in the sunshine. Have him wonder why it is so damn cold (although he was an outdoor cat, he shows no interest in going outside).

I think Zack and Lenny would have got along great.

Dr. Kristopher Chandroo is a veterinarian, scientist, photographer, animal welfare advocate, and creator of Stress to Success (STS): The essential guide to medicating your feisty, grumpy or reluctant cat.

Coming Soon: Ask the Vet with Dr. Kris

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