Campus Cat Survives Health Scare


Austin, Villanova’s friendly Campus Cat is safe and well after a health scare.

Allison Bajada, Staff Writer

No matter what name students know her by (Austin, Brick, Potluck, etc.), they have certainly seen the friendly, gray and white cat that regularly haunts the small patch of grass in front of Austin Hall. Well-known for approaching anyone and everyone for snacks and scratches, this  literal Villanova Wildcat is gorgeous, friendly and beloved by the community. Some visited her every night with food and treats swiped from the dining hall, or purchased specifically for her,  while others stopped by for a quick hello as they traversed campus after sunset. If students were lucky enough, she would perch atop their laps and settle in for a brief respite from the cold. 

“I’m amazed at how friendly and affectionate Austin is for a stray cat,” senior Ryan Dery said. “She’ll come right up to you for pets and she’ll even sit on your lap. It’s hard not to like her immediately.”

But, if students have gone to look for her recently, they’ll realize she’s nowhere to be found. Where did she go? 

On Wednesday, March 29th, the usual late-night visit to Austin’s hangout became a cause for concern. Austin was bleeding. A lot. Frantically, following many Google searches, the veterinarian was called. Ultimately, the vet said that it could either be a life threatening emergency or nothing major. It it was an emergency, the veterinarian indicated that the cost of  surgery could run between $1000 and $8000. The veterinarian said to monitor Austin closely for the next few days to see if her condition improved.  

  “We became very concerned for her health when the bleeding did not subside after a few days. In fact, it got worse,” Dery said, who joined me in visiting Austin on a daily basis. We suspected she may have pyometra, a uterine infection that can easily kill a cat within a week if the course is severe enough. After consulting with a friend, Lisa Weisberg, a who has extensive experience in cat rescue and has rescued many cats of her own, we knew we had to act immediately. With the help of two friends and fellow cat-lovers, Dery and Eva Petron, we lured the cat out, picked her up and dropped her in a carrier. Although she was frightened, she was calm, and quiet and a wonderful houseguest.  

  The next morning, Dery dropped her off at Villanova Veterinary Hospital, where an expert confirmed a Google-search hypothesis: she had a uterine infection. Not only that, but an x-ray showed that she was pregnant with four kittens. The doctor was unsure if they were viable, but planned to operate on Austin the following morning. We would only know then if the kittens were alive, but Austin would be given antibiotics in the meantime.  

The veterinarian called the following morning with wonderful news: the antibiotics had helped  Austin tremendously. The bleeding had reduced significantly, and an ultrasound confirmed that there were four heartbeats present. Austin was given some vaccines, was tested for feline aids, leukemia, influenza and heart worm (all negative), and was sent home with antibiotics. She was the calmest patient ever, and things were looking up for her. The next day, she made an uneventful trip home to New York City, calmly riding in the car and jamming out to Weezer. Austin took up residence with Weisberg, who had graciously offered to care for her through her labor and recovery. 

“When [I] checked on her later that night something  didn’t seem right – Austin was very quiet and didn’t move,” Weisberg said, who advised we err on the side of safety and return to the veterinarian the following day. 

Labor began much sooner than expected. The next day, Austin gave birth to one stillborn kitten. Weisberg and the cat was rushed to the veterinarian. The veterinarian stated that Austin had no fever,  which was a good sign. Three heartbeats were still present, and we were told that the rest of the kittens should be out. 24 hours later, no more kittens had emerged, so Austin went right back to the hospital. Only two heartbeats were left, she was running a fever and becoming septic. 

“The infection had taken over her body and filled her bladder and trachea,” Weisberg said, who was with Austin at the veterinarian that morning. The pyometra had gone from open to closed, meaning that the infection was no longer flushing out. She had hours left to live. 

“An emergency spay was performed and Austin’s life was literally saved,” Weisberg said.   

Hours later, Austin emerged from surgery, lucky to be alive. Sadly, the two kittens did not make it, as they were two weeks premature and gestating in an infected environment. Austin returned home, weary and covered in stitches from her operation. She gratefully scarfed down two cans of food and immediately fell asleep. The following morning, Austin was so much better. She was so lucky to have made it; had we waited any longer, she certainly would not have. She spent all day curled up on the couch. Austin is truly a lap cat at heart, and a great cuddler.  She is sad to leave everyone on campus behind, but is already adored by her new family and  hrilled to be in her new home in a matter of weeks. Her foster mom, Weisberg, is taking incredible, attentive care of her until then.  

  “Taking care of Austin  these past three months was a life changing experience,” Petron said. “I never let a day go by without feeding her ever since I saw her wandering outside of Austin Hall on January 13th. The growth I saw in this cat was not only inspiring but unbelievable. I went from not being able to pet her, to her  sitting on my lap for moments at a time. I want to thank you for giving your love or spare scraps to Austin when she needed it the most. We must continue to come together as a community and  help out the other stray cats on campus. Without us, they won’t make it. Please continue to look  out for our other friends lingering around campus. It was truly an honor to care for and ultimately save Austin in the true spirit of a Wildcat.”  

  Thank you to everyone who took the time to care for this truly special cat. To feed her, to pet her, to spend time with her and play with her. A special thank you to Weisberg, Dery and Petron, as their care, concern, and investment saved her life. One can see in her comfort and trust that she was well treated and well-loved by our Villanova community. Rest assured knowing she is happy and healthy.