Saved by stranger, cat shot and thrown by river recovering at Helping Hands

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Animal rescue workers say they see cruelty every day. But one lucky cat -- shot, scared and left for dead -- is reminding them why they continue their efforts to fight for all creatures.

Her name is Rockette - and it's safe to say Rockette has used up a few of her nine lives.

"She was pretty bad," recalls Dr. Jami Grace, veterinarian for Helping Hands Humane Society's veterinary services. "She was one that euthanasia as an option was discussed."

In late March, a fisherman spotted a bag lying along the bank of the Kansas River. He opened it to find a cat, barely clinging to life. He called Animal Control, who brought her to the veterinary clinic at Helping Hands.

Dr. Grace says the cat's face was so swollen, she first thought the animal had been hit by a vehicle. Then, she started to find the lead pellets in her face and ears. She says they pulled out a handful that they could see. One of the lead pellets damaged her left eye to the point where there was no eye left. But Dr. Grace was undeterred, thinking this cat who's survived being shot, stuffed in a sack and tossed in the water came to her for a reason.

"She was a survivor so I thought I ought to give her a chance," she said.

She gave the cat pain medication, antibiotics and fluid. She took the cat home for the weekend, where her eight-year-old son took it upon himself to help with feeding her and making her drink water. By the end of the weekend, the cat started to come back to life.

"(My son) said, 'We have to give it a really tough name,' so we named it Rocky," Dr. Grace said. "Then about Sunday, I looked and saw Rocky was a girl, so we changed it to Rockette!"

Rockette had another surprise. Turns out, her will to survive might have been a bit of maternal instinct. A few weeks after she arrived, they discovered she was pregnant. Rockette delivered five kittens in mid-May. Three survived and are thriving, under Rockette's loving attention.

"She's a great mom," Dr. Grace said.

While Rockette's survival is incredible, unfortunately, her story is not unique. Dr. Grace says the staff at Helping Hands sees cruelty daily, with Rockette among the most severe cases. She says the community needs to know animal abuse exists - and that they have options.

"If people don't know what to do or can't care for their animal, bring them here," she said. "We will take care of them. We will invest in them and give them every opportunity we can."

Rockette still has a long road ahead. Another surgery may be done to remove two pellets still lodged in her right eye and nasal area that are causing continued inflammation, and leaving her with little to no vision. But she's a fighter, launching a loving comeback in the face of what could have been a horrible end.

"It's the reason I do what I do," Dr. Grace said. "Not every is as lucky as Rockette. She's really lucky. She's a great cat."

Rockette's kittens should be ready for adoption in three to four weeks. Dr. Grace then will evaluate the next steps in Rockette's treatment.

Treating cruelty cases is expensive. You can donate toward the treatment of Rockette and other abused animals at the Helping Hands clinic by clicking this link.