NEW PORT RICHEY — Sometime between Sunday evening and Monday morning, a timid cat named Stripy was shot in the face.
The .22-caliber bullet entered under his chin, traveled through his tongue and exited his cheek, shattering some teeth but luckily not breaking his jaw. Bleeding and infected, the cat lived like this for three days before his caregivers caught him and raced him to Animal Care Clinic on Little Road. It was after 8:30 p.m. Wednesday and the office was closed, but doctors and staff were still there. Dr. Dave Griffin stayed late to perform surgery.
He had to remove half of Stripy's tongue. The tissue was dying. He inserted a feeding tube into Stripy, who is about 2 years old with brown and black striped fur and golden eyes. Stripy hadn't been able to eat or drink since he was shot.
Griffin gave him medicine for the pain. He also saw the lead-traced path of the bullet on an X-Ray.
"He's a lucky cat," said Griffin, who sees six to 12 cases of cats and dogs being shot each year.
New Port Richey police are investigating this case.
If the bullet had been slightly to the left or right, it likely would have killed Stripy. But, as it looks now, he will survive. He will have to learn how to eat again with his shorter tongue.
"He's been remarkably stoic," Griffin said.
Before being shot, Stripy had a pretty nice life. He lives near the house of Chris and Rowena Hover on Missouri Street. The Hovers are active members of the nonprofit group Feral Friends Network and have trapped and spayed or neutered dozens of feral cats in the nine years they've lived in New Port Richey.
Stripy is one of six feral cats they feed every day. He is gentle, Chris Hover said, and likes to be petted, though he is shy.
If Stripy survives, which he is expected to do, he can't live outside again because of his injuries, Chris Hover said. He hopes to find someone with feral cat experience to adopt him.
"He's such a sweetheart," Hover said.
He knows Stripy doesn't stray too far from his house. He hates to think someone could do that to an animal.
"I'm terrified," he said.
Erin Sullivan can be reached at (727) 869-6229 firstname.lastname@example.org.