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Polar Vortex, a stray that came to the Animal Allies shelter in Superior with severe frostbite, purrs in the arms of vet technician Liberty Cronin Friday at the shelter. The cat is expected to undergo surgery this week to remove his frostbitten tail and teeth, which were damaged by severe gingivitis unrelated to the cold. (Maria Lockwood)

Frostbitten feline finds care

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The frostbitten cat was found under a Superior porch and taken to the Animal Allies Humane Society shelter last week. The weather had claimed his tail and much of his ears.

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But Friday, Polar Vortex was purring in the arms of vet technician Liberty Cronin. The tip of one ear had already fallen off; the other was slowly ripping away, dead from the cold. His tail was a stiff, fur-wrapped weight, hooked at the end as if it were still curled around the cat’s body.

“He is really friendly,” said Dr. Bob McClellan, a veterinarian with Superior Animal Hospital and Boarding Suites. “Some of them tug at your heartstrings. They’re friendly in spite of their condition.”

Donations have already been given to cover most of the cost of surgery for the cat with the weather-themed nickname. Along with removing his tail, the surgery will involve taking out all the feline’s teeth, which are damaged by an unrelated immune disorder.

Once he recovers, Polar Vortex will look unique, like a white-and-gold cross between a tailless Manx and a Scottish fold, a breed known for their folded over ears.

“Tailless, toothless and earless,” McClellan put it, but with no special needs once he heals up. The cat doesn’t even require soft food; he was eating dry food Friday despite the pain in his teeth.

Polar Vortex wasn’t always a stray. The cat is neutered, and his coat is in good condition. But he was found outside alone and despite his fluffy fur, the cat couldn’t stave off the cold. Along with frostbite to his ears and tail, he had sores on his wrists and paw pads.

Frostbitten cats are not a novelty at Animal Allies.

“We have had approximately five cats, including Polar Vortex, that have arrived in our shelters since the cold waves arrived in December that have suffered severe frostbite,” said John Gustafson, director of development and communications for Animal Allies Humane Society. “One has healed and been adopted, three are still in care and not available for adoption yet and one, Gizmo, has a pending adoption.”

That number is above average for the year.

“It’s not the coldest winter, but it’s cold every day,” McClellan said. “For animals outside, the colder it is the worse for them.”

“They never get a chance to warm up,” said Chris Wagner, animal control officer with the Superior Police Department.

“If members of the public see an animal in distress they should call their local animal control officer or police department to investigate,” Gustafson said. “If the weather is too harsh for humans then it’s too harsh for their pets.”

Anyone who sees a stray out in the cold can contact Wagner by calling the joint law enforcement center, 715-395-7234 or 911. They can also call Animal Allies at 715-394-7387.

At the Superior shelter Friday, cats and dogs waited for homes. Each came with a unique story, from an escape artist dog Wagner tracked for six months to a surrendered Siamese and a 115-pound Bernese mountain dog. For more information, go to www.animalallies.net or visit the shelter, 2225 Hill Ave., noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday or noon to 4:30 p.m. Sunday.

To help animals like Polar Vortex, consider a donation to Animal Allies Humane Society or the Humane Society of Douglas County.

“Community support is what allows animal welfare organizations attend to the needs of the many cats and dogs in our care throughout the year,” Gustafson said.

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