Coors Field Cat — not the one that ran across the field mid-game earlier this year, but the one with her own Twitter account — was recovering Monday after a local kitty rescuer caught her outside the ballpark and brought her to a vet to be spayed, only to learn the stray needed emergency surgery after a tumor was detected.
The feral cat, nicknamed “Socks” by those who feed her, rose to fame this spring after one of her feline peers dashed onto Coors Field in April during a Rockies-Dodgers game, shining a spotlight on the numerous stray cats that call the baseball stadium home.
Local cat lady Jenni Leigh — who rescues and fosters kittens, and helps trap, neuter and release feral felines around Denver — was on a mission to get the cats of Coors Field spayed and neutered. Socks, one of the more famous strays at the stadium, had a litter of kittens in the spring, so Leigh said she couldn’t catch the cat at the time because the kittens needed their mom around.
Socks has been spotted around the ballpark so often and developed such a loyal fanbase that she even inspired a fan to create a Twitter account, @CoorsFieldCat, featuring pictures and videos of sightings of Socks and friends.
On Friday, Leigh got a call from the local women who feed the feral cats telling her it was go-time.
Natalie Bishopp, a cat lover who lives next to Coors Field, has helped feed the feral cats at the ballpark for about 14 years. Bishopp and a friend take turns putting out dry kibble, wet food, treats and water for the cats every day. Bishopp lives so close to the stadium she can see the cats come out for lunchtime, prompting her to head outside with their food.
Leigh went to Coors Field on Saturday morning armed with a trap and food to lure Socks inside. She set up the trap where the ferals normally are fed — a location Leigh didn’t want to reveal for the cats’ safety — and set up a buffet of fried chicken and a stinky can of tuna. Socks walked into the trap within minutes, she said.
Leigh brought Socks to Pet Care Coalition Inc., a nonprofit vet clinic for underprivileged pets in Aurora, for the procedure. But after Socks was spayed, the vet felt a dreaded lump under her fur.
“She called me over and said usually when she sees tumors like this, they’re already metastatic,” Leigh said, referring to cancer that has spread. “I asked her later what happens if it is metastatic, and she said it means they’ll be dead within three months.”
If this fate had happened to the average feral cat, Leigh said they would have agreed to euthanize the animal because they aren’t able to provide ongoing medical care to strays and don’t want the cat to suffer outside alone.
“But this was Coors Field Cat. The vet agreed to operate on her,” Leigh said. “It hit the vet and I pretty hard. We actually sat down on the floor and commiserated together because getting spayed reduces the chances of breast cancer, and we wished she could have been spayed sooner.”
Socks’ tumor was removed and an X-ray showed the tumor may not have metastasized, Leigh said.
“There’s a chance that this could have been a life-saving procedure for her, but we won’t really know until we get the pathology back in two weeks,” Leigh said. “We don’t know yet whether the tumor is malignant or just a lump of benign tissue.”
For now, Coors Field Cat is hanging out in her rescuer’s house in a big wire dog kennel with blankets, food, water and a litter box — far different than her usual baseball diamond abode.
“This cat has fans,” Leigh said. “I wasn’t prepared to tell everyone that she had to be euthanized, so I hope this all works out.”
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