When Rebecca Smith first saw Oscar, he was a little ball of orange and white fur.
The Morris Street resident befriended the kitten, his mother and two siblings, feeding them at their home under the porch of a vacant house in her neighborhood.
That changed late last week.
“I could see that he was hurt,” Smith said. “I saw blood on his side and had to catch him to see what was wrong. I thought he’d been cut.”
She said the kitten’s abdomen was devoid of fur.
Smith called an emergency veterinary care number and was advised to treat the cat with an antiseptic and to wrap its abdomen.
When he was no better by Tuesday, she took the kitten to Apple Grove Veterinary Clinic.
Dr. Andrew McKissick estimated the kitten is eight weeks old, and told her it had been tortured. As he examined it, he discovered that a rubber band had been placed around the kitten’s midsection.
“He dug the rubber band out with tweezers and cut it off.”
Immediately, she said, the kitten’s abdomen regained a more normal shape.
“This was no accident,” Smith said.
Treatment at the clinic included surgery to pull together the kitten’s skin around his midsection. He now sports stitches around its body. “The skin barely stretches to meet,” she said, “Some are already popping.”
When she collected the kitten from the vet Wednesday, she was told to keep him inside to reduce the chance of infection. Oscar now lives in a large dog crate in Smith’s house, away from the two dogs and 15-year-old cat who make their home with her.
She’s nursing him back to health, giving him an antibiotic twice a day and feeding him special food intended for critically injured animals — a teaspoon every two hours.
“He’s eating, drinking and resting comfortably,” she said, adding, “He’s never lost his appetite.”
Smith said her 5-year-old grandson named the cat after boxer Oscar De La Hoya.
“He said the kitten has got to be tough so he gave him a fighter’s name.”
She noted he is the friendliest of his litter, which might have led to him being victimized.
Smith, who feeds three stray neighborhood cats and their six kittens, said she is concerned such a “sick and sadistic person” lives in her area.
“What kind of person would do something like this to a little kitten?” she asked. “Isn’t this how Jeffrey Dahmer started, killing small animals? He grew up to kill people. Do we have something like this in our midst?”
Smith’s daughter, Sarah, put photos of the kitten on her Facebook page.
“We want people to know what happened up here.”
She said donations for the veterinary bill are being accepted.
McKissick told her the bill for treatment, surgery and an overnight stay would be $600, Smith said. But he cut it in half, then reduced it by another $25 when she picked up Oscar.
“I’m barely making ends meet,” she said, “but I left a $150 deposit when I dropped the kitten off, so the balance is only $125.”
Donations may be made directly to the cat’s account at Apple Gate Clinic. His client ID number is 12168. The invoice number issued by the clinic is 324240.
The New Castle Police Department is offering a $1,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for injuring the kitten.
Smith said she will continue to look in on “her cats.”
“I go three times each day to check on the mother and other two kittens, to see that they have food, milk and fresh water.”
Smith said the mother apparently had been abused and has a deformed tail. She was abandoned by her former owners, she added, who moved out in November.