Sky may have a chronic skin infection, but it has nothing to do with how loved (and lovable) she truly is
Ask Brittany Aragona what she loved most about fostering Sky, an eight-year-old cat from Best Friends in New York. Brittany will tell you how Sky purred whenever she picked her up for an impromptu dance around the apartment, how Sky meows when you ask her a question, and how she learned to love getting up at the crack of dawn because when she tried to sleep in, Sky “just wasn’t having it.”
What Brittany doesn’t tend to talk about — at least not at first — is Sky’s chronic skin and ear infections that must be managed with medicated baths and a special diet. That’s because it was easy to look beyond Sky’s tattered fur to who she is underneath ― an incredibly kind and wickedly smart cat who made her foster mom want to dance, even in the midst of a global pandemic.
Foster family helps cat feel good in her own skin
When Sky came to Best Friends from Animal Care Centers of NYC, she looked like a diamond in the rough. There was a twinkle in her blue eyes, but she was also underweight and her fur was missing in several places due to severe, antibiotic-resistant skin and ear infections.
The medical team started her on a regimen that included a daily topical medication and a special diet. Then, they contacted Brittany and her boyfriend, William, who’d just finished fostering a cat and were ready to foster another.
Sky quickly made herself comfortable at Brittany and William’s place, and soon began striking up conversations. When she wasn’t telling them about her day, she could be found perched in the window looking out at the big city beyond the glass.
Fostering Sky wasn’t just a breeze: It was fun ― that is, until it was time to for Brittany to apply a topical mousse-like solution to her fur to help manage the infection. The solution was a sticky mess, and Sky let them know she wasn’t thrilled when Brittany applied it to her fur.
Then Brittany had a brilliant idea: She’d start giving Sky baths in the tub after she applied the medication. It was a brave and bold move made easier by that fact that Sky is one of those rare birds (make that cats) who tolerates getting wet. It also helped that Brittany bathed Sky in the tub — with her in it.
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Lauren Slakter, Best Friends foster coordinator in New York, loved getting updates from Brittany about Sky. “Even though she was a bit of a hot mess on the medical side, her delightful energy never seemed to waver,” says Lauren. “Every photo of her was full of scraggly fur, shaven patches, eye discharge, and yet somehow she managed to be absolutely adorable. I loved her photos hanging out with her foster's resident cat, curling up on the couch or trying to sniff the camera.”
With Sky’s bathing routine a success, Brittany and William decided to do everything they could to help Best Friends spread the word about her and help her find a home. It didn’t take long because soon after the word got out, a couple saw Sky’s photo, read about her and knew they had to meet her.
Cat is a sure cure for pandemic fatigue
Like many of us, Manal Guenned and Selena Clark were beginning to experience pandemic fatigue after spending so much time at home. To help liven up their lives, Manal suggested they adopt a cat, and it wasn’t the first time she’d brought up the idea. She’d been wanting to adopt a cat for about three years, the whole time she and Selena had been living together. But Selena had been reluctant and too heartbroken from having to say goodbye to her cats in the past. No way was she going through that again.
Then Manal told her about seeing Sky while she was searching online for adoptable cats. And when Selena saw Sky’s photo her heart melted. That’s when she knew she was finally ready to adopt again. So, they contacted Best Friends to see if Sky still needed a home. Turns out, she did.
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Best Friends put Selena and Manal in touch with Brittany, and after emailing back and forth for a couple of days, they set up a video meet-and-greet. “We drafted up a long list of questions about Sky and her medical needs, and Brittany and Will answered everything and gave us a perfect idea of what to expect,” says Selena, who notes parenthetically that photos of Sky really don’t do her justice.
“She is so cute,” says Selena. “And being able to see how she interacts with Brittany and Will at home was so endearing. She was so sweet and happy with them and we just fell in love with her personality and cuteness.”
After the video call, Selena and Manal talked it over and decided to adopt Sky, although truth be told, their minds were made up the minute they saw her.
An inspiration to pay it forward
Today Sky is still chatty and enjoys talking at length with Manal when she’s in the shower. A typical day for Sky involves napping on heating pads and watching cat videos displayed on the wall from a projector. She seems to enjoy videos of dogs, too.
Sometimes Selena and Manal take Sky out for a stroll in her harness, and like a true city girl, she’s content on the subway, as long as she can see out the window. Sky also loves going for “shoulder rides” around the apartment. In fact, if she’s due for one, she’ll make it known by meowing until they pick her up.
As for her medical condition, Selena and Manal manage it with oral medication, a special diet and weekly baths. They’ve also been able to pinpoint the source of some of her allergies (so far, cheese, fish, and household dust). Sky was also recently diagnosed with a minor heart condition that, for now, only requires regular monitoring.
But just as Brittany found out, Sky’s medical issues pale in comparison to her beautiful spirit. “She’s a one-in-a-million cat,” says Brittany. Selena and Manal feel the same way. Besides, caring for another is one of the best ways to feel better.
In fact, the couple recently welcomed to their new home Anne, a foster cat. Anne is a senior kitty with a dental infection, and they have set up a room for her where she can rest. “Sky has inspired us so much to care for cats who may be overlooked,” says Selena. “Our home feels complete now. She's filled our lives with such joy.”
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Photos courtesy of Selena Clark