There are many things a little yellow tabby should be doing at eight weeks old: playing with yarn, running around and snuggling up to a loving family in a safe home.

But for one such kitten who was found wandering alone on the side of Highway 164 near Interstate 43 on July 23, most of that will have to wait for month or two as the severe burns on his stomach, leg and back paws heal.

Employees at the Humane Animal Welfare Society in Waukesha County immediately began their treatment of Hot Rod, named for the spark of energy and enthusiasm he has since shown despite being badly injured.

Jennifer Smieja, communications and marketing coordinator at HAWS Waukesha County, said Hot Rod was immediately given pain medication and antibiotics to fight off infection upon his arrival Saturday. As his injuries begin to scab over as any kind of burn does, his pain will be monitored by watching his posture and comfort level.

“Right now, it’s about how he is acting,” Smieja explained. “A typical eight-week-old kitten is running around, and they have two speeds: on and off. They’re running like crazy and then they’re fast asleep. And this little guy’s not— even when he’s awake — not moving a lot.”

Since July 26, Hot Rod has been staying at a foster home with an experienced caregiver, where Smieja said the family and other pets in the house have welcomed and watched over him. He is expected to stay there for one or two months before being put up for adoption.

Donations toward recovery

Hot Rod’s injuries will likely be costly, Smieja explained, ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars to pay for pain medication and antibiotics.

But after she put Hot Rod’s story along with a few pictures on Facebook recently with a request for donations for his care, the post received 152 reactions, 33 comments and 87 shares in just two days.

Smieja said the humane society has received dozens of phone calls asking about Hot Rod, as well as many online donations every day.

“I had a woman come in earlier today and hand me a check for $120 and say, ‘Here’s a couple days’ worth of care for the little guy, best wishes to him,’” Smieja said. “We’re very fortunate, and we’re so thankful people have hearts that big.”

The donations will make their way to Hot Rod through Annie’s Fund, a donor-supported kitty that began in 1994 to pay for medical issues that any animals brought to HAWS may have.

Smieja said it is amazing to be able to handle situations like this and continue to grow the fund for future animals that may need it.

“It’s our goal to never have to not have the means to treat,” Smieja explained. “It’s one of the things we do. We’re here for our community’s animals.”

Community support for animals

Although animal injuries are more common these days, Smieja said burns are usually seen in the winter, when animals may curl up to something they are not supposed to just to get warm. She said the humane society will not make any definitive ruling of abuse or accident in Hot Rod’s case, because there is no way to really figure out what happened.

Smieja said she is encouraged by the overwhelming support for the kitten online, explaining that it is a sign that people are shifting away from a mindset that animals are somehow less important than humans.

She also said people should think a bit more about animals and the lessons they teach about unconditional love, especially in recent challenging times for the world.

“We all feel, here at the shelter, that animals make us better people,” Smieja said. “We know what they give to us. It’s just one of those things that I think, the more people who think that way, the better off I think we’ll be as a society as a whole.”

Although an official adoption waiting list has not yet been drawn up, Smieja said she is certain there will be one for Hot Rod, who is expected to thrive.

“He’ll do just fine, and hopefully within a couple of months after adoption, they’ll be sending us these awesome pictures of Hot Rod acting like a little hot rod, running around the house like crazy,” Smieja said. “That’s our hope.”

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