Pet Helpers story: A Will to Survive – One Cat’s Story


WARNING: There are some graphic images in this article.

If seeing a badly injured cat will upset you so much that you will regret reading further, please stop now!

During the height of tropical storm Hermine in 2016, many Bluffton, SC residents took notice of an emaciated feral cat with a jar on his head running around disoriented and trying to find shelter. Before Beaufort County Animal Services could arrive at the scene, bystanders had already braved the weather and safely caught the distressed cat. Due to the weather and threat of floods, all clinics were closed and the cat was in need of immediate medical attention. Beaufort County residents were able to get the Animal Care Clinic in Hilton Head through Facebook posts to open their doors and take in the now infamous cat.

The cat was quickly prepped and sedated so removal of the jar could begin. After several attempts he was finally free of the contraption that prevented him from eating. What was underneath the jar was beyond horrific; his head was caked in dirt and maggots. Before the cleanup could be completed, his temperature dropped below 96 degrees and all efforts were focused on increasing the cat’s temperature so he didn’t die. It took another 3 hours to stabilize, neuter, and finish his clean-up but he had pulled through. Now came the task of giving our infamous cat a name; the jar on his head coupled with his tenacious will to survive earned him the name of “Jarhead” (a term frequently used for Marines and he was caught in a Marine Corps town).

Left: Jarhead getting cleaned. Right: Jarhead cleaned and sedated.
Left: Day one when Jarhead was found on the beach. Right after the jar was removed from his head, covered in maggots and dirt. Right: Jarhead cleaned and sedated.

Jarhead was just starting on his road to recovery. During his stay Jarhead was found to have feline immunodeficiency virus (known as FIV) and could not be released back into feral cat colonies as to not spread the disease to non-infected cats. Being feral, Jarhead wasn’t going to pass an adoption evaluation, not to mention most open admissions shelters do not have the space to house FIV+ cats as their length of stay can be extremely long. Refusing to give up on the cat that had fought so hard to survive, an employee of Beaufort County Animal Shelter decided to take Jarhead home and work on socialization with the hopes of one day turning him into the adoptable housecat.

Jarhead’s journey to becoming a housecat started in an extra-large dog crate where he could finish his medications and get used to his new surroundings. After several months of using a backscratcher, Jarhead finally started accepting touch and it wasn’t long after that he started seeking it. Seven months into his rehabilitation, Jarhead came out more and more, and by the end of his first year, Jarhead was desperate for a friend.

One year after Jarhead was found another hurricane would change his life. Because of mandatory evacuations caused by Hurricane Irma in September of this year, Jarhead made a trip to the Beaufort County Animal Shelter and met another FIV+ cat named Sarge that had come in just a few days before. After a supervised meet and greet, Jarhead and Sarge were housed together and became bonded. Being a special needs adoption, the same BCAS employee who couldn’t leave Jarhead behind, turned to Pet Helpers for assistance. On October 20th, Sarge and Jarhead came to Pet Helpers and were placed up for adoption together.

Fast forward two months. The holidays are among us and Pet Helpers is bustling with potential adopters for all the rescues in the shelter.  In walk two gentleman, Dustin Schneider and Brandon Sawyer, specifically wanting to adopt 2 cats. Our Feline Services Coordinator, Kelly Lamberti, immediately told them Jarhead and Sarge’s story. After hearing their story and how Jarhead got his name Schneider and Sawyer instantly fell in love with them and signed the adoption papers for both boys! It was a Christmas Miracle!

Left: Jarhead and companion Sarge. Right: Jarhead.
Left: Jarhead with his bonded buddy, Sarge. Right: Jarhead 7 months later, eating well and gaining weight back.

The road to Jarhead’s recovery was long, but he is one happy kitty now.

About Pet Helpers: Pet Helpers’ is a 501(c)3 Adoption Center and Spay/Neuter Clinic that serves communities across the Lowcountry. Our mission is to end the euthanasia of all adoptable cats and dogs by keeping all animals until adopted; providing low cost spay/neuter surgeries; offering humane education programs; pursuing animal-cruelty prosecution; and initiating animal-welfare legislation.


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