11/30/2013 12:20 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Feral Tomcat With Face Ripped Open Finds Help In the Unlikeliest Place

WARNING: One of the images below may be disturbing to some readers.

Rebel, a confident, burly, black tomcat, had been hanging around near A Cat's Tale Rescue in Redondo Beach, Calif. for over a year. He came to eat food that was left out, and then would proceed to torment the rescued, indoor cats. He would pick on them, hissing at them through the glass window, showing off his dominance. He was clearly the bad boy in town and bad boys often run into trouble.


According to Cathy Grasso, Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator at A Cat's Tale Rescue, Rebel was just asking for it. Tomcats are infamous for getting into territorial disputes, which is why truly feral cats, or outside cats have a shorter lifespan, some are run over by a car, get into fights or contract a deadly disease. For a year and a half, rescuers sought to trap Rebel "without a cause," but he was too clever for their humane traps. However, when Rebel showed up one day with his face ripped open and according to Cathy, "nearly hanging off of him," they had to step up their efforts as his life depended on it.


When Rebel finally showed up enticed by cat food, his face was barely recognizable; rescuers gingerly dropped a net over him. Rebel went into surgery almost immediately where he was stitched back together. The extent of his injuries looked too severe for a cat fight. A car more likely hit him. It took a month for Rebel to recover from his injuries. As soon as he was well enough, he was neutered. With gentle, reassuring hands, the volunteers at A Cat's Tale Rescue brought him back from the brink. Over time the bad boy had turned a new leaf and hisses turned into cuddles.


It seemed as though the worst was behind him, until Rebel's blood work came back. It seemed his life on the streets would follow him forever. He tested positive for FIV, what some people call "kitty AIDS." Feline immunodeficiency virus attacks the immune system similarly to HIV in humans. It is often passed through the saliva of cats, which is why it is more prevalent in outdoor cats that have territorial fights. Cats that are positive for FIV can still have a life after diagnosis, but they need to be isolated so as not to infect other cats. Rebel would have to be separated from the other rescued cats. Suddenly the cat that enjoyed living on his own was forced into isolation. His only exposure was to his rescuers and fellow volunteers.


He became Elizabeth Cotton's, one of the head rescuers, favorite. Every day Rebel would have one-on-one time with Elizabeth. The cat that once had an evil streak now was starved for attention, rubbing up on her and loving it. He would even look out the window. The same window he used to torment the other cats was now his perch. Only this time, he was the cat on the inside looking out. But he wasn't looking for freedom to be outside; he was looking for a family.


While everyone at the rescue cared for Rebel, he would do better in a home. He still has an eccentric streak and would do well in a home with no other cats or kids. If you're in the Southern California area and think Rebel is the cat for you, visit his adoption profile online here.

You can see other available animals or donate to help Rebel and other animals by going to the A Cat's Tale Rescue website and Facebook page.

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