March, 2004 - February, 2006

Secretariat was one of 7 kittens born in a horse barn at a local race horse training track. Although the kittens were healthy when they were born, at some point something went terribly wrong and they all ended up with eye infections. The local stable hands tried to take care of the kittens, the eye infections became worse. The track veterinarian attempted to treat the kittens, but failed. Not knowing what else to do, the stable hands were going to release the kittens behind the race track to fend for themselves.

Soon the news about the sick barn kittens spread and one of the owners decided to take matters into her hands and get help for the kittens. Unfortunately, by now the kittens' eye infections were very severe and several of the kittens had already lost sight in their eyes. They were also developing pneumonia. Although she desperately wanted to help these kittens, their medical needs were far greater than what she could provide.

Rather than let the now seriously ill kittens die, she contacted Rude Ranch to take them. Although the shelter was already full of healthy kittens, it was hard to say no and arrangements were made to bring the kittens in. It wasn't until the kittens actually arrived at the Ranch that we realized how sick they were.... the eye infections in several of the kittens had become so severe that the eye itself had ruptured. Three had double pneumonia, their raspy breathing could be heard from several feet away. One even had a dislocated hip that kept popping in and out of joint. All were infested with fleas and internal parasites. However, despite their problems and immediate needs, the kittens were friendly and wanted to play.

Fortunately, Dr Amy Holstein, one of the shelter's on call veterinarians, was available and immediately went to work on the kittens. By the end of the day, they had been treated for their fleas and worms, eyes cleaned and treated and started on antibiotics to resolve the pneumonia.

The next few days for the kittens consisted mostly of eye flushing, antibiotic shots and eating, but through it all the kittens were friendly and always happy for any attention they got. They soon developed a reputation of crawling out onto everyone's head and shoulders whenever their cage was opened! It wasn't long before the kittens were healthy enough to move to a room of their own. They quickly conquered running, ball chasing, toy mouse retrieval and kitten wrestling skills, despite impaired vision. The sight of 7 kittens running full speed after balls, and chasing each other kept many Rude Ranch volunteers amused for hours and the kittens became very popular with everyone that met them.

Owing to their racing heritage, the kittens were all named after famous race horses: Seattle Slew, Secretariat, Seabiscuit, Spectacular Bid, Ruffian, Native Dancer, and Queen Dorreen (Queenie). Secretariat, the big pretty brown tabby had the second worse eye damage and had to have the remains of his left eye removed. However, he recovered from the surgery and was soon chasing toys around in no time.

Although he was adopted, Secretariat had a blast running up and down the climbing posts here at the shelter. Then the following January, he suddenly collasped and went into heart failure. Fortunately, Dr Theresa Roller of Belair Vet was available and was able to get him stabilized long enough to be transferred to Chesapeake Veterinary Cardiology Associates. Once there he was treated by Dr. McGregor Ferguson. Dr Ferguson diagnosed a serious defect in Secretariat's heart and gave him a poor prognosis. However, despite the odds, Secretariat's condition improved and he returned to the shelter with instructions to take it easy and not exert himself. Apparently Secretariat didn't believe his doctors instructions; as soon as his carrier opened, he tackled the nearest cat and started racing up and down a cat tree.

February, 2006: Despite the grim prognosis, Secretariat defied the cardiologists' predictions and ran and played for another year until the hole in his heart grew too large. He died peacefully in his sleep, on his favorite cat tree.