When Rory the ginger tomcat collapsed, owner Kim Edwards did some quick investigating and found that he had eaten rat poison. On the brink of death, she rushed him to Kate Heller, a local vet in Tauranga, New Zealand.
Rory desperately needed a blood transfusion, but it was late on Friday night, and the lab was closing. There wasn’t enough time to send out a sample to check his blood type. Doing nothing would kill him, so Edwards made a phone call to a friend.
“He was dying,” she said. “We didn’t have time for the cat blood to arrive or be matched.”
Edwards called her friend Michelle Whitmore, who volunteered her 18-month-old black Lab, Macy, to be a blood donor.
“[I had] never heard of anything like that before. I thought she was joking,” Whitmore said.
Heller had never done a cross-species blood transfusion, and didn’t know if it would take. Like humans, cats and dogs have different blood types. Cats have two common types – A and B. Cats with type B could have a severe reaction if given A blood, but cats with A blood who are given B blood have very minor reactions, if any. There is a third, rare type – AB. Like humans, AB is the universal recipient.
There are eight basic blood types for dogs, though it is believed there may be as many as twelve. Dogs do not have naturally occurring antibodies against other blood types; a first-time transfusion would not cause a bad reaction, but a second transfusion might, as the dog would then have developed antibodies to attack the foreign blood.
But amazingly, despite how finicky cats’ bodies can be accepting new blood, this transfusion took. Within an hour, Rory was doing better.
“People are going to think it sounds pretty dodgy – and it is – but hey, we’ve been successful and it saved its life,” Heller said.
So far, Rory has experienced no side effects.
“The vets just went above and beyond… it’s incredible that it worked,” Edwards said. “Rory is back to normal and we don’t have a cat that barks or fetches the paper.”