Midnight the cat hadn't even been outside for an hour on Sunday morning when her owner, Heather Johnson, got the bad news.
"It's an emergency," a neighbor told her. "There's an arrow in the cat."
Johnson rushed to the utility trailer next to her Gulf Highlands home, where neighbors had seen the black 4-year-old cat "flopping around."
She peered under the trailer and saw a 2-foot-long black arrow protruding from Midnight's left side.
"I called her, she tried to come to me," Johnson said. "But the arrow got stuck on the trailer."
Her neighbor held the feathers on the end of the massive arrow while Johnson struggled to rescue the small cat.
"It kept getting stuck everywhere," she said.
Midnight had four or five bloody gashes. She was bleeding through her mouth.
Johnson wrapped the impaled cat in a blanket and called the Pasco County Sheriff's Office. She then rushed Midnight to Animal Emergency of Pasco on U.S. 19, where a veterinarian performed emergency surgery to remove the arrow.
There, the Johnsons got even more bad news. Midnight's veterinary bill would cost more than $1,000, money the family says it simply doesn't have.
"We had to sign the cat over," her husband John Johnson, said. "They said we could keep the cat if we could pay the bill."
Now, Johnson and her family are searching for the offending shooter as they scramble to come up with the money.
The Sheriff's Office is investigating to determine whether someone intentionally shot Midnight, or whether the cat simply wandered too close to target practice, sheriff's spokesman Doug Tobin said.
"At this point, we don't have any suspects," Tobin said.
The family insists that the cat didn't have any enemies in the neighborhood. They said that both of their cats, Midnight and Lucy, stay close to the Johnsons' house when they go outside.
"She comes in and cuddles," Heather Johnson said. "She comes and eats and cuddles, especially since the cold weather."
She said that Lucy has been wandering around looking for Midnight since the incident.
Meanwhile, the Johnsons and their three children have printed fliers offering a reward to anyone who can help them find the shooter. Midnight was apparently shot sometime between 8 and 9:20 Sunday morning.
Late Monday afternoon, Heather Johnson and her 11-year-old daughter, Jessica, went to visit Midnight and to deliver a homemade get-well card, complete with Jessica's poem.
"I love you! I love you with all my heart," her poem begins."We were so close. But now that your hurt they've torn us apart." Midnight is expected to survive.
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the sheriff's tipline at toll-free at 1-800-706-2488.
Mary Spicuzza covers education in Pasco County. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6241 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6241. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.