After a fire ripped through a vacant building in Philadelphia, a firefighter discovered a badly burned stray cat among the rubble. The rescue worker—who found the cat on the anniversary of her cancer surgery—brought the fading feline to Penn Vet’s Emergency Center at Ryan Hospital for treatment.
The team at Penn Vet worked hard to stabilize the cat and make him comfortable. While he was in the emergency department, the cat caught the eye of Dr. Kathryn McGonigle who works as a clinical associate professor of internal medicine at the hospital. “He didn’t have a family, and he was covered all over his face in scabs from burns—all over his ears, all over his paws,” she says. “We were worried that he might have structural damage to his eyes. He just had really profound skin damage.”
But something about the cat’s spirit caught McGonigle’s attention and quickly won her affection. “I was in the emergency room with my puppy, and we happened to see this cat. He looked directly into our eyes,” she says. “By the end of the day, he was put under my name and we embarked on a journey of healing and recovery.”
McGonigle, who likes to play up her Harry Potter-themed last name, decided to call the cat Fawkes after Professor Dumbledore’s phoenix from the popular J.K. Rowling series.
Despite the severe injuries that Fawkes endured from the fire, he has become a loving housecat. “Every day of healing, he just got sweeter,” says McGonigle. “He is an incredibly social and friendly cat. He’s a wonderful addition to the family.”
Fawkes’ new family includes a 14-month-old Yorkie-Poodle mix named Neville Longbottom and another special-needs cat named Felix, after (you guessed it) the Felix Felicis potion that’s popular in the Harry Potter books. “It’s an extremely happy home,” says McGonigle. “Everyone gets along.”
Without the care of the Philadelphia Fire Department, the lifesaving treatment provided by Penn Vet, and Dr. McGonigle’s willingness to open her heart and her home, Fawkes’ story may have had a very different ending.
“Fawkes is a phoenix, and phoenixes die and rise from the ashes and are reborn. He was given a second chance,” says McGonigle.