While Sabrina Li has moved out to the West Coast, the 22-year-old Destrehan High School alumnus and animal lover still has a soft spot for the critters that roam in her native region — and she recently greatly improved the quality of life for one special Buddy.
Li was visiting home for spring break when she made a trip to a feral cat colony in St. Charles Parish that she’s gone to for many years to feed and provide care for the animals.
There, she recognized Buddy, a friendly cat who always stood out with his demeanor and willingness to let her pet him.
“I know the faces of all the cats there. He was always one of my favorites,” said Li, who began the colony visits along with her mother two years ago, before Li moved to Los Angeles to attend The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. “When colony cats are friendly, it’s likely they were dumped there by their previous owner. Usually feral cats that grow up don’t turn up friendly like that. He kind of always just sat there looking up with his sweet little face and you’re able to pet him on the head.”
But on this trip, she noticed something was off about Buddy.
“From having cats of my own, I know what paws are supposed to look like,” Li said. “It looked like some kind of mass was there and you couldn’t tell where his paw started and ended. I thought maybe he had been burned or maybe he’d been injured some other way.”
Li said Buddy’s paws were in such bad shape she immediately reached out to a friend of hers, Jamie Scaffidi with Operation Purr, a nonprofit Trap Neuter Return/Rehome organization.
“With a colony, most people tend to feed them and leave,” Li said. “But he’s one of the ones who are so sweet and I felt like, ‘Oh, I have to do something for him.’”
What was wrong with Buddy was initially unclear.
Scaffidi said she’d never seen anything like it. Li then brought Buddy to VCA Airline Hospital the following day.
“We think he has some kind of feline pododermatitis that causes major swelling in the paws,” Li said. “It’s possible this is a disease he’s had since birth.”
Li and Scaffidi reached out to Catherine Wilbert, owner of the Big Sky Ranch in Folsom, where he will now live and be cared for.
Li also set up a GoFundMe to help pay for the cat’s veterinary expenses, upon which a number of people contributed donations, both through the page and through phone calls. All of the expenses for his initial treatment were ultimately paid for.
The story is closing toward a happy ending.
Li said Buddy’s paws have healed very well and he’s acclimated well to his new home at Big Sky.
Because Li stepped up, this cat’s daily pain is no more.
“It’s important to me to help those that can’t help themselves and Buddy was no exception,” Li said. “I have a special place in my heart for cats and it makes me so happy I was able to help him and find him a great home.”