It’s a week before Christmas, probably around 2 am. At the time, I worked at a 24-hour emergency-only clinic. It’s a cold, rainy evening. In comes a cat, brought to us by Animal Control. She was in a house fire. Her owners are still with the house, there’s one other cat in the household, but they can’t find him. He’s assumed to be lost at this point. This cat has burns on her paws, the tips of her ears are burned off, and her once long-fur is singed.

Four hours later, the second cat is brought in! He’s been out in the cold and is very hypothermic. He also has significant burns and respiratory issues. Animal control tells us the house is a total loss. The female cat’s name is JJ, the male’s name is Buttons. Buttons is gray and white, but he looks solid brown to us. Our clinic smells like a campfire.

Over the next few days, the owner comes to visit, pays close to $6,000 in medical bills for her cats. The cats both have surgeries for esophageal tubes to be put in, among other procedures. To say these cats are pitiful is an understatement. The owner is always grateful to us. She learns our names. Honestly, that in itself would have been enough for me. She was never frustrated with the money and cared about the humans.

She shocked us all on Christmas day. Please remember, she has no house and has poured more money than I’ve ever had at one time into her cats this past week. She brought us all a full Christmas dinner! She cooked it at her sister in law’s house. Everything from main courses to fresh rolls appears at our door. She is sorry that we have to work on Christmas, and is happy to see her cats.  She was in happy tears because she went back to the rubble today and found a lid to a pan! I don’t think she ever did find the pan it went to…

We were all kind of astounded. We just love seeing her because she’s so happy and cared to learn our names. To spend Christmas cooking in someone else’s house when she certainly could have done so much else with her time and money was so touching!

We learn that the male cat may have saved their lives: Buttons gets locked out of the bedroom at night: The closed bedroom door saved the humans. The fire department told her that the closed-door bought her a few crucial minutes to leave the house. If I didn’t already love these cats, I did now!

She continued to come to pay a few thousand dollars every few days. When it came time for sedated procedures on the cats, she’d bring some extra. All in all, I want to say her bills were around $10k per cat. They were with us for a month. This owner called us all by name when she saw us, continued to bring us food and thank you gifts. She came back monthly for a while to show us the progress. Buttons had some permanently deformed feet. JJ recovered well, with some burns on her face. Both pets have deformed ears. She’d send pictures of the cats being cats.

Not only were these cats a huge win for all of us, but this owner’s compassion for the clinic staff will forever remain in my head. I think we all helped each other for that month. The lesson: Be kind to everyone you meet. You truly never know what stresses they may be going through, and how your empathy and kindness can turn their day around.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the editorial team.

Karey Harris


Karey is a veterinary technician who has worked with animals mostly in emergency small animal practice but has also worked in zoos and aquariums, and with the rehabilitation of wild marine animals. She holds a master’s degree in biology from Towson University and is passionate about teaching her colleagues, pet owners and even the animals in her care. When she’s not working, she enjoys being a citizen of her cat’s royal kingdom, playing Dungeons and Dragons and doodling things for Instagram.