Cat burned in house fire recovering as people offer support

2012-10-09T06:00:00Z 2013-01-25T21:00:07Z Cat burned in house fire recovering as people offer supportBy Karen Hansen |

SAYBROOK -- When firefighter Toni Day was handed a tiny tabby kitten covered in second- and third-degree burns through the window of a burning Saybrook home, she wasn’t too optimistic about its chances.

“I didn’t expect her to survive the night,” said the member of the Gibson City Fire Department.

But nearly three weeks later Dutchess is beating the odds in Urbana at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital, bringing hope to a family that lost nearly everything and winning the hearts of people around the world. A campaign that began on Facebook to collect money for her care has raised about $2,900 of its $5,000 goal, but more still is needed to ensure Dutchess receives necessary treatment that her family cannot afford.

“At 5 pounds, I can’t believe she hung on like she did,” owner Jackie Jones, 27, said of her 8-month-old feline. “Isn’t it amazing — being a little bitty tiny thing?”

Jones’ one-story home and its uninsured contents were destroyed in a Sept. 19 blaze thought to be electrical in origin. Jones, an assistant manager at Casey’s in Farmer City, and her two sons were at her mother’s home nearby; her boyfriend escaped the fire with minor injuries.

Their pit bull, Zeke, died in the fire.

“All of it has happened so quickly. It’s kind of mind-numbing,” Jones said. “The material things don’t really matter to me, but if I could have saved my dog …”

Dutchess was found hiding under a sofa. She was wrapped in a wet towel and taken by good Samaritans to Central Illinois Small Animal Rescue near Colfax for her initial care. A few days later, Jones transported her to the U of I veterinary hospital’s Small Animal Clinic because her injuries were so severe.

“When she first came in, we couldn’t tell what kind of cat she was,” said Dr. Jennifer Herring, an emergency and critical care resident at the veterinary hospital involved in her care. “She was very extensively injured. We were extremely concerned about her.”

Among the worries: Her lungs were full of soot and debris, making breathing difficult; her paws and limbs were burned along with her face, chest and much of her body; and her flea collar melted into her skin. Her injuries mean there’s a serious risk of infection, so Dutchess needs bandages changed twice daily, daily baths and facial treatments, and the care of specialists like a dermatologist and ophthalmologist.

“She has been so great, so easy to work with,” said Herring, who describes Dutchess’ recovery to date as “phenomenal.” “She purrs all the time.”

The cost for Dutchess’ care is a minimum of $110 per day. A $500 contribution from the U of I emergency fund was quickly depleted, so Day and her partner, Christy Day, set up a Facebook page to raise additional donations. Already, it has more than 430 fans, and another group of cat lovers on Facebook helped spread the word.

“We started getting donations from Toyko, The Netherlands, Australia, France, Europe, all over the U.S., Canada,” said Toni Day. A woman from France wants to make Dutchess a blanket.

At the hospital Sunday, Dutchess was swaddled in another blanket that covered bandages on much of her body. She enjoys being held, looking up at Jones and others who took turns cuddling with her during an hourlong visit.

Her eyes follow visitors and she can blink, something she was unable to do a week earlier. She enjoys gentle chin rubs and scratches behind her ears.

Her prognosis for a full recovery is good. Her whiskers are growing back, and she’s likely to have a lot of her vision. She’s on a high-calorie diet and is “eating like a champ,” said Jones.

Dutchess’ friends hope to raise enough to keep her at the vet hospital for another one to two weeks so her wounds can heal further, plus provide needed follow-up care when she returns home. Any excess money will replenish the U of I emergency fund to help other cats.

“Clearly she was destined to stay alive,” said Toni Day.

How to help Dutchess

-- Donations can be made to the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine’s Small Animal Clinic at:

Use the “Other” category and specify “Dutchess Jones.”

-- Donations by check should be payable to the University of Illinois Foundation with “Dutchess Medical Care” on the memo line and sent to:

University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine

3505 Veterinary Medicine Basic Sciences Building

2001 S. Lincoln Ave.

Urbana, IL 61802

-- The Geminites, a Facebook page for cat lovers, is holding a raffle and a ChipIn campaign to benefit Dutchess. More information is available at:!/Geminites

-- Follow Dutchess’ progress at

Copyright 2015 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(18) Comments

  1. itsme
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    itsme - October 10, 2012 6:17 pm
    Awkward how you would make a donation site for the kitten not the kids. Typical Farmer Citian i suppose. Poor boys have no clothes but what is at grandma's, clothes closet in Farmer is only open on Saturdays, it's cold outside, the boys need school stuff again....All this is more important than the cat..And electrical that is doubtful, good luck to u and Watty.
  2. ct
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    ct - October 10, 2012 3:41 am
    not supporting life is selfish, not supporting family is selfish

    and be careful as the bell may toll for you someday in the future, and they may determine you unworthy of saving....
  3. ct
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    ct - October 10, 2012 3:24 am
    So are you now the sheriff and decide when customers get lower prices and employees and businesses have to go without pay??

    Please let us know when you'll be working for free at your job so we can all come in for a much needed bargain!
  4. ct
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    ct - October 10, 2012 3:19 am
    Thanks for stepping up and helping out a cherished member of a family that was in need!
  5. jipsi
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    jipsi - October 09, 2012 11:19 pm
    Dutchess looks just like MY little tabby girl, 7 years old, Stella! My heart breaks, looking at this poor little burned kitty, and I know she must be in a lot of pain. I am glad she's recovering, though, and that is testament to her strong will to live. Will be following her progress via the Facebook page from now on, thank you for sharing, and allowing others to have a place they can go to, to help, to send well-wishes and support and encouragement, to keep informed! Sending prayers and good health wishes your way. ;-)
  6. ChubbyAlaskaGriz
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    ChubbyAlaskaGriz - October 09, 2012 6:15 pm
    Me, Lilly & Lorenzo loved this story! :-)
  7. Madoc
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    Madoc - October 09, 2012 2:51 pm
    You rock Toni!!!!
  8. gcfd008
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    gcfd008 - October 09, 2012 2:18 pm
    ya think and jojo--When we took on the challenge of raising money for Duchess, it was not in an effort to make ourselves feel better--It was the right thing to do. When I held her that night, I knew a vet would know better if she needed to be euthanized or not. It is not my place, not anyone else's place to decide who should live or not. The fact that she survived the first three days BEFORE she got to the U of I showed me she had a fighting spirit and at that point we made every effort to make sure she had a fighting chance. We are, after all, the fighting Illini. This kitten has captured the hearts of people all around the world. If you think it is a waste of time and resources....simply do not donate...move on, but please do not insult each and every person that has helped this kitten get better.

    Toni Day
  9. Madoc
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    Madoc - October 09, 2012 2:13 pm
    we need to take you out behind the barn and rid the gene pool of your ignorance
  10. Madoc
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    Madoc - October 09, 2012 2:12 pm
    AMEN GLOWBUG!!!! We need more people like you on this planet.
  11. yathink
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    yathink - October 09, 2012 1:37 pm
    Spending all this money on a cat is just silly. What a complete waste of money and resources. Back in the day, they would have just taken the cat behind the old barn, and put it out of its misery.
  12. glowbug
    Report Abuse
    glowbug - October 09, 2012 12:28 pm
    BC- They are not allowed to do so. Charging a lower cost for one client and not another would be showing favoritism of one over the other and is illegal in the state of Illinois. They are a state run facility and are mandated by the state to charge everyone the same price regardless of the need of care or the client's financial status.
  13. glowbug
    Report Abuse
    glowbug - October 09, 2012 12:19 pm
    jojo- You are certainly entitled your own opinion but I have to say, your comment is insensitive and negative to not just some people but many and just plain unnecessary. You knew that when you decided to add it. Your comment has caused me to create a log on and add my thoughts; which is something I never do. What compassionate and caring people are doing for Dutchess isn't being selfish. It's giving a living being, a family pet a chance to have a good life with a family who loves her especially after their tragic lose. Having everything lost; hopes, dreams, hard work and family treasures is nothing to be minimized. Being burned is a painful ordeal, I know this first hand. Pain is controlled by medications and the wonderful nursing care provided. This little girl has the strength and will to live; she shows it every day. I would challenge you to come, look into her eyes and kill her. Just because we legally have the option to euthanize animals doesn't always mean it should be done. I for one am thankful there are people out there who are willing to sacrifice some of themselves to help all of God's creatures, human or not. I hope that one day when you need help, whether others think it is selfish or not, will be compassionate enough to help you or a beloved family member out and not just let you go.
  14. 110100100
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    110100100 - October 09, 2012 11:05 am
    Glad the kitty's doin well! What a lil trooper!
  15. 110100100
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    110100100 - October 09, 2012 11:04 am
    I don’t think you know what you’re talking about. This cat needs round-the-clock care, changed bandages, washing the wounds, anti-biotic, pain medicine, not to mention the simple costs of feeding and boarding an animal. Heck, boarding a cat at the kennel will cost $20 a day. I don’t think anyone is trying to be greedy here.
  16. tomevi83
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    tomevi83 - October 09, 2012 10:16 am
    totally agree
  17. jojo
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    jojo - October 09, 2012 8:58 am
    I don't think I could have been selfish enough to put the poor kitten through such a painful process. I'm sorry, I know that may sound insensitive and negative to some people, but seriously, sometimes the right thing is to let the poor animal go.
  18. BC
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    BC - October 09, 2012 8:49 am
    SInce there has been generous people from all over the country kick in how about the vet charging at least close to cost for the care. A modest profit would be OK for his time and supplies, the stated daily cost goes well beyond modest profit .
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