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Donor kitty lauded as 'Pet Hero'

Cloverdale
Cloverdale's Pekoe, a retired blood donor kitty and cancer survivor, is featured in TV's Pet Heroes.
— image credit: File

The inspirational story of Pekoe the cat will be featured in an upcoming episode of the television series, Pet Heroes.

The 14-year-old Cloverdale feline is notable because he’s a kitty blood donor. Until his recent retirement, he provided blood for cats needing life-saving surgery to patients at Cats at Home, his home base since 
being adopted by Jim and Dr.

Susan Thompson.

The prize-winning orange tabby is also a cancer survivor. Reporter readers learned about Pekoe’s health struggles a few months ago (“Donor kitty living on borrowed time,” March 18, 2011).

Pekoe does have a remarkable story to tell: he was rescued as a tiny, 12-week old kitten, suffering from a blocked urethra requiring several surgeries and lengthy recoveries – all before the age of six months.

Pekoe was already nearing the end of his donor days this past January when vet Dr. Susan Thompson found a tumour wrapped around his abdomen. It was removed, followed by several rounds of chemotherapy. It was touch-and-go for a while, but in March Pekoe rebounded and his cancer went into remission.

In fact, Pekoe is doing so well, his owner and practice manager Jim Thompson is considering entering the handsome marmalade kitty in an upcoming cat show this summer.

Producers from the TV show, meanwhile, flew out from Alberta a few weeks ago to tape a segment at Cats at Home, Jim said.

The TV crew spent nearly seven hours taping what will likely end up as a seven-minute segment on Pekoe, says Jim.

Pet Heroes is a half-hour, 12-part documentary series that airs on CMT. It showcases the amazing heroics of pets. Each episode

features interviews with the pet owners and family members involved, and includes dramatic reenactments.

Producers heard about Pekoe’s role as the veterinary practice’s kitty blood donor, and wanted to know more.

“They really liked the idea, because they don’t think people really know about it,” Jim said.

It’s impractical and cost-prohibitive for a veterinary practice like Cats at Home to have a blood bank on the premises. Instead, they rely on mascots.

Pekoe’s been living on the premises full time since the Thompsons set up the practice in 2000.

Pekoe has Type A blood, which makes him a good match for about 95 per cent of all

domestic cats in North America.

Very infrequently – just a few times a year – he’s called upon to donate a small amount of blood (no more than 60 ml) when a feline patient has suffered a violent trauma or is in an acute medial emergency.

When not saving lives, his main job has been to mingle with the other cats and their owners in the waiting room.

The Pet Heroes producers were hooked.

“Once the decision was made, I was surprised at how quickly it happened,” Jim said.

They flew out and interviewed Jim, Susan, and the owner of a feline patient whose life was saved, thanks to Pekoe.

They also took footage of Nicholas, the grey shorthair with aquamarine eyes who’s replaced Pekoe as the Cats at Home mascot.

They stayed overnight in Cloverdale, then went to Telegraph Cove to cover the story of another pet hero: a dog who’s  a seeing eye dog for another pooch who lost both eyes in an accident.

Pekoe’s role as a cancer survivor may be even more heroic than his track record as a blood donor.

When they asked Susan what makes Pekoe a pet hero, she responded, “We’re showing people that we’ve had a kitty that had adversity throughout his life and is still surviving, and we can show people that this is a kitty that’s had cancer and this is how he’s doing.”

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