Chapel Hill News

December 24, 2013

Miracle comes home: How a Possum adopted a 3-legged cat

Ever hear the story of how a Possum adopted a three-legged cat?

Ever hear the story of how a Possum adopted a three-legged cat?

This is the story of John “Possum” Irwin and his wife, Jan, who saw a “Pet of the Week” newspaper ad for a three-legged cat named Miracle.

Irwin, 69, knew something about amputation. Two years ago, he had to have his leg amputated above the knee.

“I’d been talking for awhile, saying we needed a cat,” he said. “I said I could relate to that kitty.”

His wife drove to the Orange County Animal Services building on Eubanks Road in Chapel Hill in September to check out the cat.

“She got caught in an animal trap somewhere,” Jan Irwin said. “Someone saw her crossing U.S. 15-501 dragging the trap. It was hooked to her leg.”

The passerby took the cat to the animal shelter, where the veterinarian amputated its right front leg.

“They thought they lost her a couple times during the procedure,” Jan Irwin said.

The staff at the shelter fell in love with the cat because she was a fighter and a survivor.

The Irwins decided to adopt the skinny 4-pound cat, and they took her to their home in Hillsborough, where they already had a poodle named Ginger.

The Irwins took the cat to their local vet for a checkup.

“‘Well, I’ll be. What a family. We’ve got a four legged, a three legged, a two legged and a one legged,’” Jan Irwin quoted the vet as saying, as she and her husband laughed at the memory.

Perfect owners

The Irwins might just be the perfect owners for Miracle. They know a little bit about fighting and surviving, too. In 2004, a fire destroyed part of their home, and they had to move out until it was repaired. It killed their dog, but later they were able to bring home its aunt, Ginger.

Then John Irwin began having severe knee pain, eventually ending with the amputation of his leg.

If that wasn’t enough, Jan was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, and just as John was getting back to his duties as a courtroom deputy, he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and underwent 28 radiation treatments and five or six chemotherapy treatments.

His last CT scan about five weeks ago showed no cancer.

“We look at it all as a blessing,” said Jan Irwin with a big smile.

John Irwin’s prosthetic leg is in the shop for a tune-up, just like a car, he jokes, and he hopes to get it back before Christmas and go back to work in the Orange County Courthouse after the first of the year.

Meanwhile, they have Miracle to keep them entertained.

She’s gained four pounds, and she runs and plays just like any other cat.

Her favorite toys are two paper bags and a toy mouse at the end of a wand. She jumps up in the air, rolls around and runs from room to room.

“She’s amazing,” Jan Irwin said. “She’s very happy.”

Senior discount

The Irwins took advantage of the shelter’s discount for people 65 and older. Cats can be adopted for $25, and dogs can be adopted for $30.

About that possum. Irwin earned that nickname about 40 years ago when he worked for the Hillsborough Police Department. A woman had just been arrested for shooting her husband in the leg, and she was drunk.

As Irwin was assisting her in the jail, she stared at him and said, “You know what? You look just like a possum!”

The other officers just about died laughing, and it’s been his nickname ever since.

And that’s how a Possum adopted a three-legged cat.

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