David Sass, a 5-year-old with medical issues, holds his cat Marcelo after the Peninsula Humane Society reunited the boy and his pet.
Marcelo and David are like two peas in a pod. They play together, take naps together and perhaps most importantly, look out for one another. So when the kitten went missing, David’s mom Rebekah Sass said she was worried, especially since her 5-year-old son’s medical issues are often eased by the comfort of his pet.
But luckily for the Sasses, Marcelo ended up at the Peninsula Humane Society where he was ultimately reunited with his eager owners.
Rebekah Sass said her son has a rare birth defect known as vacterl, which causes a variety of medical issues. His symptoms range widely from vertebrae anomalies and congenital scoliosis, to asthma and chronic pneumonia. She recalled 56 trips to the doctor in one year, watching her son undergo multiple surgeries and him having seven cases of pneumonia during his first year of life, Sass said.
“He’s sick a lot, but he’s doing fantastic. He’s really had an amazing turnaround,” Sass said. “He has anxiety, he gets nervous a lot and sometimes I’ll see the two of them and he’ll just be sitting there petting him. For a cat, Marcelo is almost dog like. … I do see them hanging out a lot together and mostly when David is not feeling well. That’s when Marcelo is the most docile.”
Her curious and playfully spirited son met his perfect match last August when they picked out Marcelo from a local PetSmart store. But in a case of mistaken identity, Marcelo’s microchip information was switched with a cat that looked identical to him, Sass said.
Having recently moved to Foster City from Folsom, Rebekah said when Marcelo escaped their apartment, she initially figured he would quickly return — their former cat often went outdoors. After he spent a night out alone, they grew worried. Fortunately, a neighbor found Marcelo and took him to the Peninsula Humane Society, Sass said.
They showed up before the Burlingame animal shelter even opened, eager to get their cat back. But because his microchip information was accidentally switched, it turned out to be more difficult than usual for the PHS to prove Marcelo was who he was, Sass said.
For Sass, who was about eight months pregnant at the time and brought both David and 10-year-old daughter Madison, it could have been a very stressful situation. But staff at PHS made all the difference, she said.
Staff “went above and beyond. … They were very, very patient,” Sass said, recalling how many customers came for a variety of difficult reasons. “I never heard a judgmental tone. People had lost chickens; I didn’t even know you could lose a chicken! It was a little bit of chaos, and yet I didn’t see anyone lose their patience. They were wonderful.”
Instead of making the Sasses wait several days before they could return Marcelo, PHS staff spent nearly 90 minutes tracking down the adoption agency that originally microchipped the similar looking cats, and confirming the mistake with the other cat’s owners.
Although she couldn’t have known that the PetSmart confused Marcelo’s microchip information, making it more difficult for staff to prove they were the kitten’s rightful owners, Sass agreed it’s critical for pet owners to ensure their information is up to date.
“I think it’s really important. People spend hundreds and thousands of dollars on their animals every year. They’re part of our families and it’s the same basic thing as making sure you have a current photo of your kids. You don’t want someone to go missing and go looking for them and nothing that we have is going to be more effective than a microchip,” Sass said.
But there were lessons to be learned and, when it comes to her kids, she wanted them to realize early on there’s responsibility that comes with pet ownership. So when Marcelo was missing, everyone pitched in to look for him and the kids came to the PHS to bring him home.
“It’s important to me, I have two kids and they each have a cat. It’s important to me that the kids are responsible for their animals. If you share the good times, you have to also share the bad times,” Sass said.
It’s been about a month since the kitten’s adventure. Now David and Marcelo are back to being best buds. They play everything from bubbles, which means David blows bubbles and Marcelo pops them; to racing cars, which is when he lines up toys and the two go chasing each other across the room. And when David is in so much pain that he can barely walk, Marcelo can be found purring away in his lap or asleep at his feet, Sass said.
So in her experience, it’s not only dogs that can be a boy’s best friend.
“Cats are pretty self-reliant,” Sass said. “For David, a little bit lower maintenance but still high on love, a cat works out great.”
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