Veterinarian, rescue group help family pet recover from burns

April 27, 2010 

Mango sat on the examining table at Dr. Christine McFadden's veterinary clinic and just purred away.

The little calico cat was friendly to everyone -- and that's amazing, considering what she went through last week.

Last Tuesday, someone set Mango on fire. Someone took lighter fluid, poured it on the cat, then set the cat on fire.

That day, Karen Kiil's daughter and grandson were moving into Kiil's home when Mango, the daughter's cat, escaped through an open door. Mango was an inside cat, a cat that loved everyone.

But someone didn't love Mango. When the cat got out, that unknown someone poured lighter fluid over the cat and set her alight.

"There were three little boys playing across the street when Mango went racing into the street, screaming in pain, with flames all over her," said Kiil. "The boys caught her and put out the flames. Thank goodness for those little boys."

Kiil's daughter immediately called her mother, and Mango was taken to a local veterinarian. But Kiil and her daughter couldn't afford the thousands of dollars the vet said it would take to save the little cat. So Mango came home, after getting an antibiotic shot.

Kiil knew the cat needed more help than it had gotten, so Kiil started calling local vets.

"Dr. McFadden's office was so nice," Kiil said. "They said to bring Mango in, the vet would help her and there was a rescue group that also might help."

That rescue group, called New Beginnings for Animals Merced, rushed to the rescue. Sharon Lohman, vice president of the nonprofit, told Kiil the group would help pay for the cat's veterinary care, which could run into the thousands of dollars.

"I have five cats, and with my daughter and grandson moving in after losing their home, I just didn't have the money it would take," Kiil said. "So we signed the cat over to the rescue group. I wanted to do what was best for Mango, she's such a nice cat, she deserved the help."

McFadden and her staff immediately went to work on the little cat, doing surgery on her burned skin and giving her pain medications.

"Mango's lost a lot of skin, and the dead areas look like leather," McFadden said. "We can't sew things closed yet because it could cause more damage than is already there."

About 70 percent of Mango's skin is burned, with her left side getting the brunt of the flames. Plus her hind end is a mass of sores and burned skin, her whiskers were burned off, and the tips of her ears will probably have to be amputated because of burns.

Mango is going to be hanging out at McFadden's office for at least a couple of weeks, and the veterinarian is absorbing some of the cost of the treatment.

Lohman said her group sometimes takes in animals that need treatment owners can't afford -- and Mango fit that bill exactly.

"She's a sweet, sweet cat," Lohman said. "Despite being hurt so horribly by a human, she still wants to be friendly."

Kiil said when the cat was burned, she called the Merced Police Department, who sent an officer out to the residence.

"The cop told me he didn't see that a crime had been committed," Kiil said. "This was such a cruel thing to do to a cat."

Kiil said she doesn't know for sure who set the cat on fire, but she has her suspicions. "There's a teenager who plays with fire all the time just down the street from where my daughter lived," she said. No accusations have been made against anybody, she added.

Torturing animals can be just the beginning of abuse that goes beyond animals and on to humans. Dr. Mary Lou Randour, a psychologist with the Humane Society of the United States, said there's a strong correlation between animal abuse and child abuse and domestic violence.

"Animal abuse is an indicator of a family in trouble," Randour said. "Children who are cruel to animals are more likely to continue displaying antisocial, violent behavior as they become adults."

When animal abuse occurs, Randour said, pet owners should call their local police department and be sure to make a report.

"Animal abuse is a felony crime in California," Randour said.

Kiil said although her daughter signed the cat over to the rescue society, McFadden's office has kept Kiil and her daughter updated on the cat's progress.

"Mango is so, so sweet," Kiil said. "My 2-year-old grandson loved to play with her, and she was so nice to him."

Lohman said some donations have come in for the cat, and eventually Mango will have to go to a long-term foster home until she has totally recovered from the burns.

Lohman's rescue group has started a Mango Fund, which will help pay for the cat's veterinary bills. If there is any leftover money in that fund, it will be used to treat injured or sick cats that come to the nonprofit.

McFadden said she has seen a lot of animals with horrible wounds, but she can't understand how someone could hurt Mango.

"No matter what we do to her, she purrs," McFadden said. "She's a doll, she just wants to be petted."

Not set on fire.

Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or creiter@mercedsun-star.com

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