Author’s Note: The pictures featured in this article may be a bit graphic for some people to see as this article is about a cat that is still recovering from burn wounds due to a house fire. I tried my best not to include the worst pictures, but they do tell her story and I did not want to omit the long journey Dutchess has made to get to this point. Many many thanks to all those who have been involved in her continued recovery.


How old is Dutchess?

Dutchess turned 1 year old on April 1st and was 6 months old at the time of the fire.

Do they know how the fire started?

The house fire started in an electrical outlet and spread quickly through the walls.

Was Dutchess the only one to survive?

Her original family was away from home except for one person, who was sleeping at the time of the fire. He was able to escape through a window in the bedroom with the aid of firefighters but was unable to attempt to rescue Dutchess or her brother Zeke, the family’s Pit-bull, because of the flames.


Dutchess showing signs of healing in October of 2012

What kind of surgery did she undergo?

She had her right rear foot operated on to remove some toes since there wasn’t enough room in her skin thus causing her to walk on basically a closed fist/knuckles. She then had to have a tuft of impacted fur removed from the pad of the same foot since it kept causing an ulcer of sorts. The skin healed around the burnt fur as she healed. She also had her right eye lid operated on to hopefully revert her eyelids to a more normal position so that she can close her eye better. She will have the other one done in the fall if all goes well with the right eye. We elected not to do the other feet unless absolutely necessary since she has a hard time healing with all of the scar tissue that she has.

How is her family doing?

Her original family still mourns the loss of Zeke and all of their belongings. Unfortunately, they were not properly insured and had nothing except local donations to get them started again. We still keep in touch with the family and are friends on Facebook, but they are still in a rental home that does not allow pets. Although, the family has a few neighborhood stray kitties that manage to find meals waiting on the front porch.

Where can people donate to help cover some of Dutchess’ ongoing care?

We are not in need of any financial donations now, and we have an Amazon Wish List for anyone that wants to help Dutchess live a more pampered life. We only ask for financial donations for other kitties in need like Justin and other kitties that require emergency care due to burns or trauma. We also share stories of fire rescues and praise the firefighters and EMT’s that save them.

I read that her whiskers are growing curly and need to be trimmed, does anyone know why they are growing curly?

Dutchess’ whiskers have been growing in curly up until very recently, and we believe that it was a result of the scar tissue being very tight. Her skin is naturally stretching as she has grown over the 7 months with us, which is allowing the whiskers by her mouth to straighten out a bit. The whiskers around her eyes are still trimmed as to not interfere with her eyelids. We will see how they grow in after she is all done with her left eye surgery.


Dutchess playing with her ball in December of 2012

Is she on any special medications to alleviate any pain/discomfort?

She uses Artificial Tears 3-5 times a day and may always need eye lubrication. It is too early after her first eye surgery to know if the artificial tears will always be needed. We do administer beupenorphine, an opioid liquid, after surgeries or procedures to eliminate any discomfort, and she really seems to enjoy watching cartoons while on her pain medication.

Is she on a special diet right now?

Dutchess, like all of our other pets, is on a Grain-Free diet and loves her Weruva – Cats-In-The-Kitchen and Weruva – Best Feline Friend food pouches. She became very fond of the pouches when we first started visiting her weekly at the U of I on Sundays after the fire, and she still perks up the minute she sees a pouch in hand. We have to keep her on a calorie-restricted diet to maintain her current weight because her paws will have arthritis later in life and do not want her to carry too much weight, but we also like to spoil her rotten. Thankfully, she appears to have stopped gaining weight and is holding steady at 10.5 pounds.

Is there anything else you would like to add about her or her recovery or about those that have helped her recover?

Where do I begin? We are very thankful to everyone involved in recovery starting with the amazing students and faculty at the University of Illinois. There were students that were purchasing medical supplies and toys out of their own pockets to help offset her expenses, and Dutchess gained some great friends at the pharmacy and through the Small Animal Clinic. Her “Aunt” Lori can be seen in many pictures with her during her stay at the U of I, and spent every lunch hour walking the halls with Dutchess, playing with her and just talking to her, which provided the interaction that wasn’t medical and painful. Aunt Lori now watches Dutchess for us when we go out of town and her granddaughter has fallen in love with Dutchess too.


Dutchess in January of 2013

We have made wonderful friends like Lori along this journey with Dutchess. We are extremely thankful to everyone that helped us financially and that sent Dutchess gifts because we could never have been able to provide Dutchess with the care she needed without each donation. We already had 4 rescue kitties and 2 Shelties before Dutchess came into our lives and promised that we would not take in any additional family members, but Dutchess caused us to have a change of heart. We love all of Dutchess’ friends on Facebook that are like a part of our extended family from all over the world and appreciate the support that we received when others thought that she should have just been “put out of her misery”. We had some tough days and sleepless nights once she came home with us, and her physical therapy was not always fun. Her Facebook family helped keep us going, and that is what family is for.


Dutchess a photo from August of 2013

Thank you for taking the time to share Dutchess’ story. It has been a long year with many emotional and medical decisions, and we would not change a thing unless we could stop the fire from starting in the first place. Dutchess has changed both Toni and me while teaching many others compassion during her journey.

Thank you,

Christy, Toni & Dutchess Day

Dutchess before the fire

Dutchess before the fire

Author’s Note: Many many thanks to Miss Christy, Toni & Dutchess Day, please follow Dutchess’ progress on her Facebook page. Check out the Amazon Wish List. Pictures were used with permission, please also check out the article about her in the Pet Columns section of the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine.

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