Norm and Rudy - owned by Certified Veterinary Technician Kelly Brown, RVT
How many cats are rescued, live in an animal hospital where they are spoiled rotten, and get to save lives in return? We only know of two, Norm and Rudy, and this is their story.
Norm and Rudy were adopted from a local shelter and came to live at Animal Hospital of North Asheville in 1997. Everyone at AHNA always thought it would be nice to have a ‘hospital cat’ and to have two, well, that was even better. Norm, the real character of the two, was always getting into things and making people laugh, and Rudy was a real love bug, demanding and getting lots of affection. They were the perfect pair.
Norm and Rudy were inseparable. They would play and wrestle until they were exhausted and then they groomed each other. They were also naughty together. Norm and Rudy knew they weren’t allowed in certain parts of the hospital (this was for their own protection against dogs who sometimes get excited about cats) so one of their great joys in life was to sneak into those off-limits areas at night. We would find Rudy with his face covered in pollen and we knew he had been in the flowers, which were on the front desk, where he was definitely not allowed! Norm and Rudy also became our unofficial food critics. We never knew how, but sometimes they were able to break into the closet where the bags of cat and dog food were stored. The evidence would be everywhere – trails of kitty kibble, holes in bags, and two very satisfied cats! Norm and Rudy – cat burglars!
Once they were settled into their new home at AHNA, Norm and Rudy started their important work of saving lives. They became blood donors for cats in need of blood transfusions. Norm and Rudy saved so many lives that WLOS even named them their ‘Hero of the Week!’ We will of course never know if Norm and Rudy sensed the importance of what they were doing, but they gave their blood calmly and willingly. Rudy did not even need to be sedated when giving blood and purred the entire time he was donating.
Norm and Rudy became a part of our daily lives at AHNA. Everyone fed them chicken and tuna treats and gave them love and cuddles all day long. We loved pushing Norm around on a gurney, one of his favorite games, and trying to get our paperwork done around Rudy, who loved to lay down right in the middle of it where he knew he would get optimum attention.
In 2002 insurance regulations would no longer allow Norm and Rudy to run free in the hospital, so since we would never think of confining them to a cage, it was time for them to retire. It just seemed natural that they would go home with one of the AHNA staff to live out their remaining years.
“I always said that I wanted Norm and Rudy to come home with me when they retired,” said Kelly Brown. “When I took them home it took them no time to adjust. They sauntered in like they owned the place.”
Once Norm and Rudy retired, several staff members volunteered their young, healthy cats to be brought in from their homes to donate blood when needed by a patient. Since our hospital now stocks feline packed red cells and plasma from a national blood bank, it is rare that we have to call on a cat to donate.
Of course, Norm and Rudy have life-time access to the of best medical care at AHNA without any charge because after all they did for our patients, the hospital wanted to be sure they lived long, comfortable retirements. Sadly, Rudy passed away six months ago at the approximate age of 16 from renal disease. As he passed, he was surrounded by quietly sobbing staff members who loved him and remembered his antics here at the hospital as a young, adventurous cat.
“It’s been a real adjustment for Norm, and me, to not have Rudy around,” said Kelly. “Norm’s developed relationships with my other pets, but it’s not the same as what he had with Rudy.”
Norm is now fighting cancer, but Kelly says that his quality of life is great. He’s responding well to chemotherapy and his weight is steady. He’s getting all the care he needs at AHNA.
Norm has a funny way of catching Kelly’s attention. “When he doesn’t think he’s getting enough attention he grabs his tail in his mouth and walks around and around in a circle meowing. Who knows how he meows with his mouth full of his tail, but he does it. He’s an absolute joy and so was Rudy.”