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May 19, 2022

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Street cat survives attack to find fame, family

Well-wishers send money, toys enough for Buddy, friends

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PHILADELPHIA — Things looked bleak for Buddy.

The Philly street cat was the victim of a brutal attack a month ago. Captured on video, it was shocking even by this tough town’s standards. The odds of him making it weren’t good.

Flash forward: Buddy was watching the 76ers trounce the Raptors in the NBA playoffs on a cozy couch with a new kitty friend and two human fosters who adore him. He had toys galore, all the catnip he wanted, and a social media following hanging on his every meow.

And thanks to this little black cat who almost lost his life, other injured animals will have a better chance to live theirs.

Don’t believe in fairy tales? Here’s Buddy’s story.

It started on a porch in East Frankford. Buddy was what animal welfare folk call a community cat. People would put out food and water for him, but he was a rambling man. He seemed to prefer the outdoor life.

But on that day, two boys with two dogs walked by. They can be seen on a home-security video returning shortly afterward and letting the dogs loose on Buddy, who was on the porch. A man eventually came out of the house and rescued the cat.

Two boys, age 12 and 17, were arrested a few days later as juveniles on animal cruelty charges, which are still pending. The dogs, which belong to a family member of one of the boys, remain in Pennsylvania SPCA (PSPCA) custody.

Badly mauled, Buddy was brought to the PSPCA for treatment but transferred to the Blue Pearl emergency veterinary facility for more intensive care. He was unresponsive, in shock, bleeding internally. His heart rate was almost twice what it should have been. His caretakers thought he might die.

But no one was giving up. That included Buddy.

Word of the incident spread. Reaction went viral.

The PSPCA was flooded with inquiries about Buddy. Then came the donations — toys, cat treats, and money to help. People were pulling for the little black cat — not just from the Philadelphia area or even the United States, but as far away as Europe, Asia and Australia.

And sure enough, Buddy started to pull through.

“This is the biggest outpouring of support we have had for a single animal in the last decade,” PSPCA spokeswoman Gillian Kocher. “This is nothing that comes close to it.”

Buddy could live out all his nine lives and barely make a dent in what’s been sent for him. So the spokeswoman said the PSPCA’s other felines are getting to enjoy his surfeit of toys and treats.

The PSPCA also received over $100,000 for Buddy — far more than the cost of his care..

So the PSPCA has created the Buddy Fund to help other abused or neglected animals like Elsa, a sweet-tempered, white-and-gray stray who will receive eye surgeries and hopefully find a good home.

For the past couple weeks, Buddy’s been living in the feline lap of luxury with his two doting fosters, Dr. Katie Venanzi and her husband David in their South Philly home.

Venanzi was the Blue Pearl emergency veterinarian who worked on the critically wounded cat when he was brought to her facility from the PSPCA.

Venanzi sees lots of animals in her work, but there was something special about Buddy even from the beginning. He reminded her of Chloe, her own cat she’d lost to cancer a few months before. Like Chloe, Buddy was full of spunk, even as sick as he was.

“He was barely responsive that night he came in, but if you moved him the wrong way, he would growl at you,” the vet said. “That was how we knew, ‘Oh, he’s going to be OK.’”

Still in mourning for her late Chloe, Venanzi hadn’t been looking for a new addition to their household. But her husband suggested she might want to foster her special patient.

So a week later, Buddy moved in. The couple gave their new houseguest his space. Maybe he wouldn’t like living indoors, Venanzi worried. Maybe he wouldn’t like living with people.

That’s not how it’s worked out.

“He’s so, so, so loving,” Venanzi said.

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