Leave No Paws Behind, Inc. of Burbank, California, rescued him from Baldwin Park Animal Care Center on February 11, 2017. That day, CEO Toby Wisneski had received a text from a friend asking her for help. The friend, Elaine Seamans, was in search of sick or injured dogs that she could help through her nonprofit, At-Choo Foundation, when she came across the roughly 3 or 4 year old cat. He had sarcoptic mange, which is highly contagious to other animals and humans, and he was in danger of being euthanized, Wisneski said. Despite the cat’s condition, Seamans held him in her arm. For all his suffering, the poor kitty snuggled right up next to her. He still craved affection. “She sent me a video and that sealed the deal,” Wisneski said. “He had the tiniest little meow that was kind of like, ‘oh please, please.’ That did it and I said we’re on our way.”
While the cat, whom Wisneski named Valentino (since he was rescued so close to Valentine’s Day), might have seemed like a lost cause to others, he wasn't to her. Leave No Paws Behind specializes in sick and special needs pets as well as with senior pets. "I'm not afraid to take on these cases because they can really surprise you," she said. "It’s never too late." Wisneski took Valentino to The Pet Doctors of Sherman Oaks. The staff there got to work right away. Valentino was dehydrated and underweight. He should’ve been around 15 pounds, but he was only 4 or 5 pounds. In addition to mange, he also had ringworm.
Valentino was put on antibiotics and pain meds, was given lime-sulfur dips and was fed every two hours. Because of his contagious diseases, he had to be isolated and handled with gloves. Wisneski said the fact that Dr. Michelle Dulake brought Valentino back to good health was nothing short of miraculous. “It was touch and go there for a little while,” she said. “Dr. Dulake said, ‘If we could get him back on his feet, he has long life ahead of him.’ And she was right.”
Valentino’s condition slowly began to improve. He put on weight and opened his eyes. They were a beautiful emerald green. Despite everything he went through, Valentino remained in good spirits. “He had it really bad, but he never complained,” Wisneski said. After two months at the animal hospital, Valentino was ready for foster care. Wisneski said she received many applications to foster Valentino due to media coverage of the cat. Photos of him prior to being rescued were so striking that it’s no wonder he became an internet sensation. Wisneski picked a long-time local supporter of Leave No Paws Behind who had recently lost her own kitty. Valentino required special care and could not be around any other animals because he was still contagious. His new foster mom, who has chosen not to make her name public, had no other animals and was up to the challenge.
“It was a long list of his aftercare instructions and I said, “Are you sure you want to do this?’ and she said, ‘Yep!’ And the rest was history,” Wisneski said. Valentino had to continue to be isolated and handled with gloves until his tests for ringworm and mange came back negative. So for a whole month Valentino lived in his foster mom’s bathroom. During that time, he and his foster mom, who lives in West Hollywood, bonded. When he was finally ready to be adopted, his foster mom couldn’t bear to see him go. She adopted him herself on June 6. “I always knew she was going to adopt him,” Wisneski said. “He grew to trust her and she just fell in love with him.”
Now Valentino rarely hangs out in the bathroom, preferring to sleep in his mom’s bed. Overall, he’s a pretty mellow cat and a bit of cuddle monster. “He’s a loving cat,” Wisneski said. “He so trusts and loves his new mom. He snuggles with her on the bed. He just adores her.” Wisneski is not sure how Valentino ended up at the shelter in the first place. She suspects he was a stray. One thing is for sure, he’s found the home he was always meant to have.