Just north of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, one woman is making it her mission to save as many stray and feral cats as she can. Carmen Morales Weinberg, founder of Animal Friends Project, gives her days, nights and any spare moments in between to these needy felines. That goes for every penny in her pockets as well. With the Sunshine State’s year-round “kitten season”, there are always cats in need of her attention. One after another, they appear with a range of issues. Ringworm, mange, blindness, starvation, abuse and the always fun flea infestation are more than common. And Carmen doesn’t turn away from ANY of them!
It’s exhausting, thankless, expensive and heartbreaking. But it can also be extremely rewarding, inspirational and heartwarming–which is why she does it. One of her latest transformations from mange crusted cat to handsome ginger stud proves every second is worth it.
Spotted just after Valentine’s Day, the ginger cat had such bad mange he was walking the streets almost blind.
Even with the overwhelming number of distressed cats Carmen had in her care/organization, she couldn’t refuse his case. She began fundraising, knowing if this cat were to have a chance, it would be far from free. As with many other 501(c)3 organizations, Animal Friends Project relies solely on donations to do the lifesaving work.
Fortunately, helping cats get rid of torturous mange does not cost anything and today I can offer this boy that. He appeared at the home of a lady that was able to call us and get help.
When Carmen arrived at the residence, she easily spotted the suffering cat. He began crying loudly, pleading for someone to help him. Reacting to Carmen’s voice, he approached her with one of the worst cases of mange that she’d seen. The defeated tone to his meow could actually be seen in his posture.
Not knowing how he would react to being trapped, Carmen set the cage down carefully. The last thing she wanted was to spook the cat and have him run into more trouble. She grabbed a can of cat food and popped the top.
What happened next was the absolute best case scenario for any stray and feral trapper.
Carmen dumped the can onto a plate as the pitiful boy called out desperately, smelling the food. She had no idea how long it had been since he’d eaten.
I didn’t even have to set the trap. He approached me and all I had to do was put food in front of the trap and he went in!
With the ease of “trapping” him, Carmen knew he was likely in quite a bit of pain. She took him home and named him Simba.
The poor boy was certainly in rough shape. His mange was so bad, his whole body seemed to have a hard outer shell! This condition is caused by parasitic mites that burrow under the skin. They can cause itching, skin irritation and hair loss. It is curable but it not something that fades quickly.
As Carmen cared for him, crusty Simba soon began to transform into a whole new cat.
It took no time for Simba to happily accept all the love and attention she could give him. Not to mention the food and water, which he gobbled up at every meal! In just a few days, the mites began to die and the scabs and crusty skin began to shed. Carmen had also been applying eye drops in the hopes that he’d soon be able to open his eyes.
The yucky crust is coming off his ears. He didn’t let me clean his face with a warm cloth but I will try later. I keep putting coconut oil in his skin so the crust gets soft and I can try to comb it off. Thankfully, he lets me work on him. He is really a sweet boy. Not sure of his age.
It was clear he was feeling better, because he went from huddling up while sleeping, to stretching out his tired body. A relaxed kitty is a happy kitty! By the 19th, Carmen was treated with a little sliver of an eye peeking at her.
Simba was finally able to get a glimpse of his rescuer.
It’s been almost a month since Simba’s life turned around, and just look at the handsome cat that was under that rough exterior!
He had visited the vet as soon as his mange started to clear up. The staff at Chasewood Animal Hospital were able to shave off some of the crusty bits, leaving him with no more itchy skin or pain. While he was there he was tested for FeLV and FIV, both of which were negative.
Simba eats everything I put in front of him and I am hoping he will gain weight soon. He is still relaxed, observing everything. I wonder what he thinks of all these changes in his life. Hopefully, we will find him a great forever home when he heals completely.
The damaged fur on his tiny body began to fall off in patches, which is a good thing after mange. This would allow new fur to grow as the spots previously affected healed.
When Simba is posing like the first photo (taken March 1st), it looks like he has a beard! =) Not sure how long it is going to take for his hair to grow back.
Throughout it all, Simba remains a willing participant in his healing. Except when it comes to cleaning his ears. He is NOT a fan so Carmen has to take a cautious approach. She doesn’t want him to have any setbacks in trusting humans or his healing successes.
He got upset yesterday when I tried to clean his ears. They are very dirty, but he doesn’t let me touch him if he thinks I am going to try again. I don’t want him to be nervous so will let him rest and hopefully he will forget and let me clean him!
Now Carmen knows Simba is out of critical care and ready to move into another foster home.
With mange being contagious to other cats, Simba hadn’t been able to have free-range at her home. But now that he had been cleared, she hopes to find him a foster home where he can roam freely. He would also need to learn how to truly “cat” since his former life is a mystery. It seems like the only thing he’s clearly “catty” about is cleaning his ears–STILL!
He seems comfortable and relaxed but I know he needs a little more socialization because we don’t know if he has ever lived inside a home.
Simba’s legs are looking good now. The hair still needs to grow but his skin has healed all over his body.
If you are interested in fostering Simba, any of the other felines in Carmen’s care or showing your support, please check out their website for more details. Be sure to follow all the amazing rescue stories from Carmen and Animal Friends Project on Facebook too!
REMEMBER: ADOPT, DON’T SHOP; FOSTERING SAVES LIVES & SPAY AND NEUTER!
Want to see more of Carmen’s amazing feline transformations?! Well, here you go =)