(NEW YORK) — What would have been a routine visit to her local animal shelter turned into an emotional experience for Elaine Seamans.
A stray cat that had recently been brought to the shelter stopped Seamans in her tracks as she walked past his cage.
“I saw about four dogs who needed help, and then I saw him,” Seamans, who runs the At-Choo Foundation, a nonprofit that provides dogs with medical care, told ABC News. “We don’t normally help cats but there’s no way I could walk past him.”
The emaciated cat somehow managed to muster a “meow” and turn toward Seamans.
“He reached out and so I picked him up,” she said. “He was so thin and he was so weak and he just put his little head on my shoulder.”
What Seamans didn’t know at the time was that the cat was suffering from a highly contagious sarcoptic mange, a condition that requires handlers to wear protective gloves. She said she doesn’t regret the risk she took that day.
“There was no way I could leave him here to not get help,” Seamans said.
Seamans knew the cat, named Valentino, was in bad shape. She texted her friend Toby Wisneski, CEO of Leave No Paws Behind, a nonprofit that specializes in extreme medical cases and terminally-ill animals.
Wisneski immediately responded and arrived at the shelter shortly after. She promised Valentino would receive the best care possible.
“I heard his tiny little meow and that sealed the deal,” Wisneski told ABC News.
Thanks to these women, Valentino is now recovering under 24-hour care. In addition to the sarcoptic mange, Valentino was suffering from low glucose levels, infections that left his eyes swollen shut, dehydration and possible gastrointestinal bleeding. However, Dr. Michelle Dulake, a veterinarian at The Pet Doctors of Sherman Oaks who has been overseeing Valentino’s care, said he is on the road to recovery.
“I do think we are optimistic, and as long as his glucose goes up and his bacterial infections go away, I think he’ll have a really good life,” Dulake told ABC News. “He’s the sweetest, sweetest cat. I think it was a really great find for Leave No Paws Behind. They did a great job finding a cat that has the potential to live a long and happy life.”
The support Valentino has received from the public after she began sharing his story has been overwhelming, Wisneski said.
“The people have been just amazing,” she remarked. “We’ve received donations from people in Sweden, Australia, Austria. Who knew? We were just doing what we normally do — help those that can’t help themselves and the ones that nobody wants.”
She continues to post updates on Valentino’s status on her foundation’s Facebook page, garnering even more support.
“He’s the sweetest little guy,” Wisneski, who named the cat in honor Valentine’s Day, said. “He’s an internet sensation, he’s got a fanbase that is unbelievable, and we’re taking it one day at a time.”
Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.