Nobody knows how she got there. One morning in late November, as a local bin lorry was doing the rounds, picking up wheelie bins full of waste around the streets of Bray, one of the lorry operators saw something moving amongst the contents in the back of the truck. He shouted for everything to be halted, and then reached in and plucked out the small, helpless kitten. The poor creature had been badly injured, so he headed straight down to our clinic in Bray so that she could get the help she needed.

It was obvious that she didn’t have an owner, and the expectation was that the vet would quietly carry out euthanasia, ending her short life rather than letting her carry on suffering. When a small animal has been tumbled around with random chunks of garbage in the back of a churning bin lorry, serious life limiting injuries seemed almost certain. The focus was to get her to the vet as fast as possible so that her pain could be relieved with a quick lethal injection.

When the on-duty vet in our cat-only clinic checked her over, it turned out that although she was injured, her injuries were not as life threatening as had been expected. There was no urgent reason for euthanasia to be carried out. She was a gentle kitten who was obviously terrified about what was happening to her, and we decided to give her a chance. She was temporarily adopted by our nursing team and we put together a treatment plan for her.

Sassy had been tossed into the rubbish and tumbled around, but apart from being bruised, grazed and generally traumatized, she only had two serious injuries.

First, her tail had been twisted and torn, with much of the skin being torn off. This was a nasty injury that was causing her ongoing pain and distress. There was no way that it could be repaired: the only answer was to amputate her tail at the base. A cat can survive very well without a tail and it was far more important that she was free of pain. So on the same day as she arrived at our clinic, we amputated her tail under general anaesthesia. The wound healed up well, and once the fur grows back, it will seem as if she had never had a tail.

Her second injury was more complicated: her left back leg was badly broken, at the ankle. She couldn’t put any weight on the leg: it just dangled there, useless. Some simple fractures can heal with a simple cast being applied, so we took xrays of the leg on that first day, to see if this might be possible.

The x-rays brought bad news: she had a complex fracture which would only heal with the help of a major orthopaedic operation, using stainless steel pins, wires and screws. This would be an expensive operation, and Sassy didn’t have an owner. It was a difficult situation.

We allowed a few days for Sassy to recover from the general trauma and the tail amputation. We gave her good food, pain relief, and plenty of TLC. She responded well to this, purring and showing us all that she was an adorable cat who deserved to have a long and happy life. There was an opening in the schedule of our orthopaedic veterinary surgeon, and we managed to arrange to fit Sassy in.

The operation went well; her broken bones were pieced back together like a jigsaw puzzles, held in place by metalwork, then supported afterwards in soft, protective bandaging. Sassy needed plenty more pain relief and copious nursing attention. But a week after the operation, she was thriving, even beginning to use the leg. At this stage, she was so active that there was no need for her to stay in a busy vet clinic, so Zoe agreed to foster her, taking her into her own home for further care. Sassy adapted well to this, staying in one room in Zoe’s house, and gradually becoming more active, stronger, and healthier.

Her background as a free living kitten means that she is an independent minded creature: she is very lively. It has sometimes been difficult to keep the dressing on her injured leg; she didn’t take kindly to wearing the standard type of plastic cone collar. She’s small and wriggly enough to be able to get out of it, so Zoe had to keep an especially close eye on her. She is very friendly to people that she has learned to trust, but she is nervous around strangers. If somebody new comes into a room, she will tend to run off and hide, keeping an eye on goings-on from her hiding place. But she soon warms up, making friends and beginning to relax.

Her treatment is still not fully completed: she needs a few weeks more rest and recuperation, and she needs to have final x-ray pictures to confirm that her broken bones have knitted fully together. We are hoping that before the end of January, she will have made a full recovery. And at that time, Zoe will need to find a new, permanent home for her. Zoe has her own menagerie of pets, and she doesn’t have space to keep Sassy for the long term.

Sassy will need the right sort of home: ideally, a gentle person who’s prepared to take time to get to know her well, in a calm, peaceful home. She’ll be a loyal companion.