Dr. Elizabeth Montgomery crouched beside the cage of a long-haired, black-and-white cat with blisters and second-degree burns on all four paws. She stroked his head, examined his bandages and adjusted the soft collar around his neck that prevented him from licking his wounds.
The cat is one of dozens of pets badly burned in two Northern California wildfires that are being treated at the University of California, Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital and who will be returned to their owners or placed for adoption once they recover.
The teaching hospital has received more than 40 cats, along with four horses, two pigs, two chickens, a dog and a goat, the Sacramento Bee reported Saturday.
Nearly half of the animals have gone unclaimed, their families likely unaware whether they survived or where to look for them. Others have been identified through microchips under their skin, or after their owners spotted their photos on the UC Davis Facebook page.
The animals that recover and are unclaimed by their families will be placed for adoption by shelters in their home counties. In a few cases, firefighters who rescued cats from the charred rubble and brush have requested permission to adopt them if the owners cannot be found.
A recent day, a small army of specialists in colorful scrub suits tended to eight cats with varying degrees of injuries. Some had lost parts of their ears. Whiskers were seared off or curled from heat. A few faces were burned raw, their noses scabbing. Most sported bright blue bandages on all four legs. The unidentified animals had been assigned names that spoke to their ordeal: Blaze, Coal, Bernie, Flame, Ashley.
While the animals have a long fight against infection ahead of them, most have a good chance of getting better, said Dr. Erik Wisner, a veterinary radiology specialist at UC Davis.
"They're getting the best care that a patient could receive," Wisner said.