Animal Resilience: Lessons We Can Learn from Ziggi's Will to Live

Joanne & Donny having a loving moment

Peace-loving Ziggi, who loved the outdoors, minding his business, watching the world go by. This cat wasn't interested in socializing with other cats, nor people, and tended to go out when it’s late and stay out all night. He liked the quiet so he could wander, sniff, and enjoy the midnight air.

Until he got cornered. Wrong place, wrong time. That fateful night on 30th October 2016 when he was attacked by what I thought to be a muntjac deer from the wounds that were inflicted. A single puncture wound to the left side of his body, with internal muscle tissues described by the vet surgeon, who opened him up as "shredded".

The phone call I received amid Ziggi’s surgery whereby the vet surgeon stopped what she was doing to give me the bad news that she did not think she could save him as his muscle tissues would not hold the stitches together. She mentioned his peritoneum was intact, a miracle. At that mention, my ears pricked up. This felt significant. She said it was unlikely he would make it and suggested it would be kinder to let him go while he was unconscious. I was about to agree until I heard a voice in my head, clear and calm, say “I want to live, I want to come home”. I knew this was Ziggi communicating with me. I begged the vet to continue with the surgery, to do her best, and she knew by the tone of my voice I would not change my mind.

Ziggi survived the surgery. His wound was 5cm diameter, gingerly held together by the stitches. Dosed up on ketamine and methadone. He was an inpatient for 10 days and eventually weaned off the drugs. However, Ziggi was not able to stand, and was incontinent. Once again, the discussion of euthanasia was brought up by the medical team. And without fail, that voice I knew to be Ziggi continued to tell me he wanted to live.

I discharged Ziggi from the vet hospital amidst concern from the vet team understandably. I knew I needed to seek support from other sources. Someone who could help me to care for Ziggi with his hind leg paralysis and a leaking bladder. I grappled with guilt and even felt shame at the thought that I could possibly be keeping Ziggi alive for my own sake. This had been mentioned by those around me. Even if they meant it kindly, it haunted me. Yet this voice, Ziggi, stopped me from giving up on him.



When you are going through hell, you never forget the person who gave you hope.

The name Gail Pope and Brighthaven Animal Hospice was given to me by a contact from a healing group I belonged to. I checked out the website details and made an appointment for a consultation with Gail.

I remember feeling nervous and worried that she would tell me I was doing something wrong, and how terrible Ziggi looked and what kind of life will this cat have? It was a video call as Gail was located in the USA and I’m in the UK.

My heart pounding, Ziggi laid next to me on the sofa, Gail appeared on the video screen. The softness of her expression, she smiled, looked at Ziggi through the webcam, and gently exclaimed “oh my, what a handsome boy you are”. It took every ounce of effort for me to hold it together, as I just wanted to burst into tears. Months of having pitying looks from others when they saw Ziggi and comments about what a terrible state he was in, and all my stress washed away by Gail’s beautiful greeting. I will never forget that moment.


And here is where the journey to Ziggi’s miraculous recovery began. Gail offered advice, tips and information for ways to support Ziggi. I was presented with options! A cat who could not walk did not mean his life was over… what a concept. I watched as, in the background of the video call, the cats that lived at Gail’s animal sanctuary were flinging themselves up and along this giant cat tree! Gail turned around and pointed out the ones who had hind leg paralysis. She smiled and said, "see, they love their life". Only a few months ago, the world I was in found this to be inconceivable.

In the months ahead, Ziggi progressed to regain mobility in his hind legs, as well as full bladder control through a series of acupuncture treatments and home exercises. I watched him get stronger with each day, and his zest for life unwavering. Patience, hope, faith and love was what Ziggi needed.



Is it me who can’t bear it (pain) or is it my animal who can’t bear it? ~ Gail Pope

In my darkest hours of the first 2 months nursing Ziggi 24/7, I remember thinking I could not bear watching him unable to get up, incontinent, knowing the pain he endured from his wound and the pressure sores and grieving his loss of independence. It was Gail’s words that kept me on the straight and narrow as I reflected on “Is it me who can’t bear the pain, or is it Ziggi who can’t bear it?”. I knew the honest answer was I had to be strong. For Ziggi.

Year 2023 Ziggi is 8 years old. Independent albeit some tell-tale signs of his hind leg weakness. He goes outdoors, same routine from 10pm until 2am and yes, I will wait until he comes home. He receives regular chiropractic treatments and animal communication is an integral part of our relationship.

7 years on from my first meeting with Gail, our path connects once again through the Animal Hospice Group, whereby Gail is one of the co-founder and lecturers, and I am a student of their certification program.

Ziggi and I are determined to share the mission of BrightHaven without whom I would not have known there were options available to care for Ziggi and to honor his wish to live. And to continue with spreading the education that The Animal Hospice Group offers.


Brighthaven and Animal Hospice Group

Brighthaven is a 501(c)(3) animal welfare organization dedicated to helping people help older, disabled and chronically ill animals via our Rescue and Caregiver Resources and Education (including animal hospice and holistic healthcare) programs.

Animal Hospice Group

Mission: We connect with caregivers and practitioners to support, educate, empower, and inspire. Vision: We work toward a day when all caregivers and their companion animals have ready availability to animal hospice and palliative care support and guidance through an interdisciplinary team approach. Values: Innovation, Respect, Compassion, Teamwork, Integrity, Commitment, and Unity.



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