Therapy Cat Eases Pain

His family calls Ozzie the "Cat from Heaven."

His family calls Ozzie the "Cat from Heaven."

The family calls Ozzie “The Cat from Heaven,” where this peculiar human-animal match did seem to originate.

Pedro Rodriguez – a U.S. Navy veteran who suffered a spinal-cord injury from a bad fall outside the barracks – and his mother, Maggie Ramos, were visiting a cat show in Richmond, Va., in December. They spotted Cornish Rex breeder Kathy Pritchard and her cat in the ring, and they were so intrigued by the breed that Rodriguez and Ramos followed Pritchard to her Spotsylvania home – that is Civil War territory, for history buffs – to check out the furry offerings at her cattery.

This is where Ozzie made his peculiar and fateful acquaintance with Rodriguez, who has difficulty moving his hands and didn’t feel comfortable holding all of the petite female kitties that were approaching him. So Pritchard introduced Pedro to one of her stud males, Ozzie, known for being a bundle of kinetic energy rather than a cuddler.

“He did the strangest thing,” says Pritchard. “I put him up on the table, and he crawled right onto Pedro’s lap. He said, ‘This cat loves me.’ ”

It was totally out of character for Ozzie,who was affectionate and sometimes excited to see people, but was too busy with kitty courtship to pay much attention to two-legged types.

Ozzie – a skirt chaser who spent most of his time pursuing the lady cats – had fallen in love with the human Pedro. Ozzie wasn’t even for sale – Pritchard spent $1,000 just to have him shipped to her from Finland, and Ozzie was the only brown stud in her bunch – but she knew the connection was undeniable, and Ozzie belonged with this man. Pedro and Maggie paid to get the 2-year-old Ozzie neutered and prepared for his new life as Pedro’s companion. Other than the vet bill, the family got the cat that would normally cost $1400 as a gift from Pritchard.

Rodriguez, of Chesapeake, Va., became disabled from his fall, uses a walker, and needs help with everyday tasks. While most people would think of a dog in that service role, Rodriguez says that Ozzie serves him well. Even Ozzie’s simple acts of affection like licking his dad’s hands and wrists – where Rodriguez experiences pain from severe osteoarthritis – soothe and help the veteran.

“There’s something about that warm tongue,” says Rodriguez, who’d been allergic to cats but doesn’t react to Ozzie.  “We never had a cat like this cat.

“He’s like a godsend,” Rodriguez says. “He sits on my lap and actually licks my hands and knows where it hurts. I take a lot less pain pills now because I have him.”

Ozzie follows Rodriguez around everywhere, comes when he calls, and even plays fetch with his human. When Rodriguez’ door is closed, Ozzie will stand outside and meow until he can enter.

Ozzie’s presence has transformed Rodriguez’ life, both emotionally and physically.

“Daily tasks are so hard for me, even just buttoning my shirt,” he says. “My whole attitude toward life has changed, I believe, due to this cat.”

Clearly a daddy’s boy, Ozzie still finds time to give Ramos – a native of Havana, Cuba – some love. The cat sleeps with Ramos, 72, in her bed. But come morning? Ozzie goes back to Ramos’ son.

“When he hears Pedro … that’s it,” Ramos says about her grandcat. “When you have an animal like this … they help so much.”

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