TIERRA VERDE, FL — As Phyllis Combs left her Tierra Verde home to bring a current rescue to the veterinarian recently, she right away changed equipments when she saw somebody toss a cat from a pick-up truck that was driving over the bridge to get in the barrier island.
The cat struck the bridge’s wall headfirst, leaving her shocked on the side of the roadway, in the beginning.
“She was just sitting there and didn’t know what to do. She saw the traffic and was scared,” Combs told Patch. “And the truck just kept going without looking back. Ain’t nothing but pure evil. It’s evil for somebody to do something like that.”
The longtime cat rescuer was in the right place at the right time when this horrific incident of animal cruelty happened. She quickly turned around on the bridge to help the panicked kitty.
“I pulled up behind her and when I did, I thought she was going to let me pick her up, but she did not,” the founder of Cat Kids Rescue said. “I got out my bite gloves and an extra, big carrier I had. I keep myself prepared. I’m a Girl Scout or Boy Scout, whatever.”
Combs stopped traffic on the bridge in both directions as she tried to capture the abandoned animal. Not wanting the cat to run into traffic or attack, she moved slowly.
“I just wanted to save this little, bitty girl,” she said. “She tried to climb the wall, but she couldn’t. Thankfully, the wall is kind of high on the bridge. But she was furiously trying to get up over it.”
At one point, when the cat was trying to climb the wall, Combs was able to grab her by her tail and then the rest of her — getting bit in the process, though she was luckily wearing gloves — and got her into the carrier.
A Long Road Ahead
One of Combs’ volunteers brought the cat to a Pinellas County Animal Services facility for an assessment.
“They thought she was in really bad shape,” she said.
The cat’s two back legs were broken and she suffered a shattered pelvis when she was thrown from the truck and landed on the roadway.
The agency informed the animal rescue that the cat didn’t meet its criteria for treatment and released the feline to Combs’ care. Since then, she’s been caring for the cat in her Tierra Verde home.
It wasn’t until she brought the injured cat to Dr. Kevin Rose at the St. Pete Beach Veterinary Clinic that they learned she was pregnant.
“Her legs are a little cracked, here and there, but her pelvis broke in two,” she said. “And in the X-ray, we saw four kittens. We thought she might be pregnant but didn’t know for sure until then.”
It’s a long road ahead for the cat, who’s about two weeks out from giving birth.
“She can possibly give birth and be OK, but her pelvis will probably need a metal plate,” Combs said. “That’s the hardest part for us to figure out. We can’t do anything until the babies come out and we don’t know if she might need to have a C-section.”
And when the kittens are born, Cat Kids Rescue will have to find a foster mother for them to ensure their survival.
In the meantime, they’re keeping the mother cat as comfortable as possible and raising money for her medical care. Those interested in donating to the organization can learn more here.
This isn’t Combs’ first time nursing a kitten with a fractured pelvis back to health. She had another in her care at the end of last year.
“It took me three months, but she went home about a month ago, a black kitten,” she said.
Once she starts working with her current rescue, she expects the feline to be “perfectly handleable and adoptable in four to six months,” she said.
Volunteers with Cat Kids Rescue aren’t surprised to learn about Combs’ efforts to save the cat.
Calling her “the godmother of cats,” Marcos Bringas told Patch, “She and her husband are just incredible. It feels like they’ve dedicated their life for this, and she deserves the gratitude and focus.”
Another volunteer, Ally Drake, added, “Phyllis will drop just about anything if she hears there’s a cat somewhere that needs to be rescued or is about to be euthanized. That’s the kind of person she is.”
The Founding of Cat Kids Rescue
A Virginia native, Combs later moved to Kentucky and about 25 years ago, she and her husband became snowbirds, splitting their time between the Bluegrass State and Tierra Verde. They did this for about five years before deciding to make Florida their home full time.
She always loved animals and owned five Yorkies during the time she moved between Florida and Kentucky. One year, when she returned to Tierra Verde for the season, a neighbor told her, “Phyllis, you have a cat problem.”
“I told her, ‘I don’t have a cat problem. I have Yorkies,’” Combs said.
That’s when she learned she had five kittens living under her deck. These were the first cats she helped rescue.
She began volunteering with the local chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
“They trained me well with all the medical things and other things I needed to know,” she said.
For years, Combs also worked as a trapper, starting with more than 20 feral cats left behind in her community after a neighbor who was caring for them died. She trapped the cats and spayed or neutered them. Some she found homes for, while others she returned to the colony in her neighborhood. Several are even still alive today, she said.
In 2014, she formed Cat Kids Rescue as a 501c3 nonprofit organization. She works closely with other local agencies and organizations, including SPCA Tampa Bay, Pinellas County Animal Services, Friends of Strays and Meow Now.
Most of the group’s adoptions are made through PetSmart at the pet store chain’s Tyrone area and Largo locations. They also have an office and center in the Seminole area.
The organization averages about 1,500 adoptions through PetSmart each year and about 2,000 overall, Combs said. So far, this year, they’ve already seen more than 550 rescues and adoptions.
As they assist such a high volume of animals in need, the group is constantly looking for volunteers and foster houses, Bringas said. Learn more about how to get included here.