Miracle cat burned in fire remains on long road to recovery

Diane Wilson Image
Friday, February 20, 2015
Miracle cat burned in fire on road to recovery
We first told you about Russell last year. He's a local miracle cat who survived a house fire.

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- We first told you about Russell last year. He's a local miracle cat who survived a house fire. His story made him into an international celebrity, and now, he is doing a lot better.

Russell and his owner, Leta May Strickland, have been through a lot.

"I was looking up and down the street and I was crying out trying to find me," Strickland said.

Their house burned in January 2014, and Russell was found four days later, barely alive and badly burned.

Click here to see photos of Russell's recovery. (Some photos may be graphic.)

"A man told me that one of the cats were out there and was hurt. He heard them crying," Strickland said.

Strickland rushed Russell to Raleigh's Animal Emergency Hospital and Urgent Care.

"He was burned over the majority of his body, his ear tips were completely burned off," Megan Maus with Raleigh's Animal Emergency Hospital and Urgent Care said.

Russell needed expensive, life-saving surgeries, but the good people at the hospital weren't worried about the money.

"We had decided with the Strickland family when they had brought Russell in they had just lost everything. They were upfront with what they were going to be able to do financially," Maus said. "So, we made the decision as a staff, as a hospital, that we are just going to figure something out and we will do what Russell needs."

ABC11 aired a story on Russell's needs, (Click here to read that previous story.) and the hospital started updating his condition on Facebook, and he soon became a sensation. (Click here to see the hospital's Facebook page.)

Russell started getting likes and donations from all over the world.

"We had these massive following, tens of thousands of people. We were getting cards and letters. A young girl named Bella sent in her tooth fairy money," Maus said.

So much money poured in that it covered Russell's many ongoing surgeries, and he's proven to be the perfect patient.

"We could do his bandage changes without having to sedate him, and not every cat can tolerate that. He has a special personality for sure," Dr. Una Stone said.

Russell is still getting get-well gifts.

"He's gotten beds. He's gotten blankets, a lot of which are handmade. He's gotten toys and treats," Maus said.

Strickland checks on him regularly and can't wait for him to come back home.

The good news is Russell's recovery is almost complete, and he should be home soon. The bad news is what happened to Strickland after the fire when she hired contractors to rebuild her home. We will have that story on Friday at 5:30 p.m. to see why Strickland needed our help to get her back in her home.

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