Woman takes in 70 ‘special needs’ cats to give them loving home for their final days

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At any given time, Michele Hoffman is looking after and caring for at least 70 cats.

Alongside her full-time job in the film industry, she runs a sanctuary that cares for “special needs” cats with birth defects, terminal illnesses or injuries, allowing them to live out their final days in a loving home.

Milo’s Sanctuary, in Santa Barbara, also give homes to cats who have been abandoned and abused.

The sanctuary houses about 70 to 75 cats at any one time, with furry friends coming from all over the globe, including various parts of the US, Mexico, Egypt and Turkey.

Michele said: “When I started there was no such thing as a ‘special needs cat’, they were simply cats that no one wanted due to birth defects, terminal illnesses, injury or old age.

“I decided to change that and so I started Milo’s Sanctuary to help fill the void and have a safe and loving place for them to spend the rest of their days.

“Sadly, some cats are with us for a short time, but we give them the best of everything; good food, medical care, soft beds, warm sunshine and lots of love.

“We believe in quality not quantity, so when there is nothing further to do and their quality of life starts to wane, we hold them in our arms and kiss them goodbye.

“No one should leave this world feeling that they are not loved, won’t be missed and weren’t important.”

When the cats are first brought to the sanctuary, they are isolated for 14 days and monitored by veterinarians to check for any illnesses, behavioural issues or problems with eating and using the litter.

One of the current residents is Biscuit Butterpaws, six, who was rescued from Mexico after someone beat him with a club, causing him to suffer a broken jaw and rupturing both of his eyes leading to blindness.

The poor cat had to have both of his eyes removed but despite his horrifying experience, is still the “sweetest” and “gentlest” of cats.

Daisy, 11, was rescued from a hoarder, who homed over 200 cats and dogs in a tiny house – with animals reportedly starving to death. The feline was very ill but vets at the clinic were able to help her recover.

Chloe Nightmist, eight, was found trapped in a feral colony in Los Angeles but was anything but feral. She had a fungal infection which ate away part of her nose and rescuers saved her from another animal shelter.

Fennel Springsong, eight, has a cleft nose, a slight cleft palate and mild cerebellar hypoplasia and was dumped at a shelter by his family. The vets now call her their “butterfly girl” as the adorable cat often sits and stares into space.

Meanwhile Jack Bubblewink, six, was hit by a car in Egypt and dragged, resulting in major damage to his lower jaw, ripping away all the skin and muscle from the bone.

He was flown to the UK for a life-saving operation and has since recovered. The cheeky cat is now known as a “big flirt” at the sanctuary.

Herman, 11, was diagnosed with severe cerebellar hypoplasia and can’t walk. He was left at a rescue in Denver because the people who had him didn’t want to deal with his illnesses.

The cat was living in a cement kennel for a year at a dog rescue with little to no care for his needs.

And finally, Tessa Tumblspice, who is just six months old and was born blind with face deformities due to a birth defect. The feline, who was rescued from Mexico, is feisty and very playful despite her condition.

Sadly, although the cats are provided with veterinarian care to treat injuries and illnesses, not all of them survive.

One particularly gruesome case involved a cat named Tommy, who was found wandering the desert in California with severe burns, the result of someone having reportedly poured acid on the feline’s head.

He was rescued in June 2016 but tragically died three years later from feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV).

Michele said: “He was found wandering the high desert and came to us shortly thereafter.

“Tommy spent six weeks with our vet at Beverly Oaks [Animal Hospital], receiving IV fluid antibiotics and regular honey bandage changes in order for it to granulate enough to have surgery.

“He had two sink graphs and that’s what gave him his ‘lion mane’. He passed in October of 2019 due to complications from FIV.

“Tommy was the most gentle and forgiving cat in the world.