For a pet that was apparently abandoned, Chatterbox is a pretty lucky cat.
First, he was rescued three years ago from a construction site in Florida by his devoted owner, Elisabetta Ferrero. Now, thanks to a generous grant from the Petco Love foundation, he’s getting a new lease on life from the clinicians at the veterinary hospital at the NC State Veterinary Hospital.
When she rescued Chatterbox, Ferrero was nearing the end of a 33-year career as a professor of environmental and social ethics at St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens, Florida. A strong advocate for the ethical treatment of animals, Ferrero, now a professor emerita living in Raleigh to be nearer to family, is the owner of six cats, all rescues.
She also continues to support four colonies of stray cats in Florida, donating to provide food for a team of volunteers who care for them. She also has found time to publish a book of poetry recently with a publisher in her native Italy.
She won Chatterbox’s trust by feeding him and reassuring him. She describes him as friendly and intelligent, but Chatterbox was scared at first. She believes he had an owner at one time because he is neutered. In time, she was able to capture him and bring him home. “And the rest,” she says, “is history.”
“He is an amazing cat — intelligent, friendly and very loving,” she says. “He’s the kind of cat that anybody would want to have.”
Shortly after introducing Chatterbox to his new home, she noticed something odd growing on the middle of his nose.
It continued to get larger, so she took the cat to her local veterinarian, who took a biopsy of the growth. The results indicated that it was benign. The growth was removed and Ferrero hoped that was that.
Two years and a move to North Carolina later, it turned out that Chatterbox’s nasal saga was far from over.
Last February, a growth reappeared on the cat’s nose, this time more toward his right eye. Again it grew, and once again Ferrero sought medical help for her feline friend. Her primary care veterinarian in Florida referred her and Chatterbox to NC State.
Ferrero says that she is grateful to be living so close to a facility like NC State. In Florida, she was an eight-hour drive away from the specialized medical care that is readily available at her current home in Raleigh.
After a preliminary examination, Chatterbox was diagnosed with a sarcoid tumor, a non-cancerous growth typically found in cattle and horses and spread by a virus.
“Chatterbox and other cats were living in the woods near the construction site,” Ferrero says. “About five minutes away there was a field where someone was keeping some cows. The doctors say that these tumors are usually only seen in cats that have been near cattle.”
NC State oncologists decided that the best treatment for Chatterbox was to surgically remove as much of the tumor as possible, followed by two weeks of radiation treatment to kill any remaining tumor cells.
Ferrero was eager to do as much as possible for Chatterbox but concerned about being able to afford the cost of such extensive treatment. That’s when she was told about the availability of assistance from the Petco Love grant. “That lit up my world,” she says.
Funds are available to assist qualified pet owners from Petco Love, formerly the Petco Foundation, and Blue Buffalo Cancer Treatment Fund. Through a generous grant to NC State, the fund helps clients with the cost of cancer treatment for animal companions, covering as much as 75% of the expense.
“I wouldn’t have been able to afford this treatment without the grant,” Ferrero says. “Most people who love their pets would do it. I applaud Petco wholeheartedly for making this funding available.”
Ferrero also appreciates her experience with the medical team at NC State. “The staff all care so deeply,” she says. “Each animal is like the most important one. It’s been that way from the beginning.”
So how is Chatterbox doing now?
“He’s happy like a lark,” Ferrero says.
~Steve Volstad/NC State Veterinary Medicine