One of the first things you learn as a fisherman is to expect the unexpected. On a hot day in July, fishermen learned this lesson firsthand when a routine fishing excursion quickly took a shocking turn. What they reeled in from the waves wasn’t an abnormally large catch or rare sea creature. In fact, they had no idea how the poor thing got into the water in the first place…
When the crew of Still Flyin Charters in Orange Beach, Alabama, set out on a routine excursion out of Perdido Pass, they were expecting it to be a normal day…or as normal as it gets while fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. They’d seen some once-in-a-lifetime sights there before.
When you’re fishing in the Gulf, you come across all kinds of marine life you probably wouldn’t see on an average beach day: dolphins, snapper fish, even some whales and manatees. It’s not just a place of weird sights, but of weird sounds, too.
Fishermen like those with Still Flyin Charters are used to the sound of the waves hitting the side of the boat, the wind whistling through their ears, and a fishing line getting pulled by something hungry beneath the waves. But on that day in July 2020, something was different.
Since they ran a charter boat, the sounds of people oohing and aahing over their catches is all part of a normal day. A fisherman gets used to the ordinary sounds of a fishing excursion, so when a foreign sound reached their ears, they immediately knew something was wrong.
Steve Crews, the captain and owner of Still Flyin Charters, quickly looked over the side of the boat at the waves below. The guests on the boat heard the sound, too: a soft wailing noise, like someone or something struggling in the water.
The wailing noise was coming from a tiny, furry creature struggling against the waves. Without skipping a beat, Crews and his fellow fishermen grabbed their nets and started to do what they do best: fish. But what they pulled out of the water didn’t have gills.
It had a skinny body, two floppy ears, and its eyes screwed up tightly against the current. “He was struggling to stay up,” Still Flyin Charters explained of the creature on their Facebook page. It wasn’t until they finally pulled the little guy out of the waves that they recognized it.
It was a tiny orange kitten. “Our catch of the day,” Still Flyin Charters wrote on Facebook. Looking at the poor kitten, it was clear that he had been through quite the ordeal. Just because he was finally safe on the boat didn’t mean he was going to survive…
And looking at this photo, the poor guy definitely looked worse for wear when he was rescued! Thankfully, the crew knew exactly what to do. “We caught him, brought him in the boat, and let him recover.” Still, everyone had plenty of questions.
When Still Flyin Charters posted the story onto their Facebook page, they were bombarded with questions: How did this happen? Did the cat fall in from another boat? Was the cat being used as shark bait? Or was it something even more sinister?
“No one uses kittens for shark bait,” Still Flyin Charters was quick to point out. “I used to commercial shark fish for a living. Never heard of anyone doing that.” Many people were alarmed by the possibility that the cat didn’t end up in the water by accident.
”I want to assume it was an accident, but there are a lot of mean people when it comes to animals, so you just don’t know,” one person commented on Facebook. As the fishing experts, Still Flyin Charters have their own theory about how it happened.
They think he was simply “sucked out by the tide.” Curiosity has been known to kill the cat in the past, after all! At least the little guy was scooped up before any real damage was done…that the crew knows of, that is. Now, the kitten is still fighting to recover.
According to Still Flyin Charters, the cat is still a little jumpy from the whole experience. “He’s hanging around the house because he’s terrified inside,” the Charter company wrote on Facebook. They had doubts that he would ever be able to coexist with people…
That is, until he was adopted! As it turns out, the feral cat just needed some time and love in order to recover and find a forever home. Still, this story wasn’t over yet. A few days later, Still Flyin Charters got a letter in the mail.
The letter was from PETA, and they had some choice words for Still Flyin Charters. They thanked the crew for saving the cat and for being “kind citizens” before reminding the fishermen that “fish are living beings capable of feeling pain…just as cats are.”
Still Flyin Charters didn’t let the criticism about their occupation get them down. What wasn’t controversial about the whole story was how they were able to save a cat from drowning, after all. Of course, the seriousness of the story didn’t stop people from making jokes.
“That’s the strangest looking catfish I have ever seen,” someone commented on Facebook about the waterlogged cat. The cat probably is one of Still Flyin Charters’ weirdest catches! As they admitted on Facebook, “can’t say you see that every day.”
People have even offered up their own name ideas for the little seafarer: “Nemo,” “Shark Bait”, “Jonah”, and “Gilligan” have been popular choices. Ultimately, it was the Still Flyin Charters’ crew who picked the little kitten’s name, and it is perhaps the most clever option of them all.
“Lucky” — the most fitting name of all! It was definitely a rare stroke of luck that Still Flyin Charters happened to find the little kitten when they did and that they found him a real forever home. Too often, people use shelters as a dumping ground for their neglected pets. Shelter supervisors like Liz Begovich understand better than most how every animal dropped onto their doorstep needs special treatment and a little TLC.
They’d dealt with malnourished animals and abandoned pets before, and they were used to receiving overnight drop-offs. Still, Liz and her employees were not prepared for what they would find when they arrived at the shelter for work one day…
When Liz and her team saw the pet carrier in front of the shelter, they knew they were in for a tough day. It’s never easy dealing with neglected pets, and this creature had seen the worst of the worst.
Liz peered into the pet carrier on the shelter’s doorstep and was greeted by a ball of gray fluff. It was shoved uncomfortably into the carrier, and they couldn’t see its face. Still, Liz could tell this animal was more than just fluffy.
“All we saw was a matted mess,” Liz said. But it soon became clear that what they were looking at wasn’t just a tangled mess of fur, it was alive. At first, they thought it was a long-haired dog.
But then the animal lifted its head and revealed the big, blue eyes of a cat. “I’ve never seen a cat in that sort of condition,” Liz said. Its gray fur resembled a rug, and it hung off the cat’s body in matted clumps.
A prisoner of his own hair, the cat could not move without being carried. His body was weighed down by layer upon layer of thick, matted fur. The shelter knew that simply cutting out the matted mess wouldn’t be enough.
Besides, doing so is more likely to pierce the cat’s already-damaged skin. No, they had to take drastic measures. Liz and her team knew immediately what they had to do, and it wouldn’t be pretty.
They quickly brought the cat to the vet, where he was shaved. But this wasn’t your average haircut. The vet shaved 4.5 pounds of tangled, matted fur off of the cat’s body. When they finished, the fur filled a full-size trash bag.
Without his confining, dread-locked hair weighing him down, the cat looked like an all new animal! Like how most people feel after a refreshing makeover, he had a new lease on life. Now he needed a name.
They decided to call him Bob Marley as a cheeky reference to the famously dread-locked musician. However, it wasn’t long after Bob was shaved that they realized he had an all-new set of problems a haircut couldn’t fix…
It became obvious how a cat, an animal known for its fastidious cleaning habits, ended up in such a horrible state: Bob was overweight. If a cat is too heavy, it can’t clean itself properly, which can lead to disease and, yes, matted fur.
The question wasn’t how Bob ended up that way, but why his owner hadn’t tried to help him sooner. It would have been obvious months, even years beforehand that Bob was suffering. They knew they had to find his previous owner.
“Normally, when someone leaves an animal after hours, there’s usually more to the story. It’s typically not a Good Samaritan,” Liz said. It’s alarming to think what is “more to the story” in Bob’s case. It’s possible he endured unknown years of abuse.
Luckily, the animal shelter reviewed their security footage and saw a video of Bob’s ex-owner. An older man wearing a baseball cap had dropped Bob off at the shelter at around 5:30 AM, hours before Liz arrived to open the shelter.
In a passionate Facebook plea, the shelter shared the security footage and asked anyone who recognized the man to inform the shelter. While this was happening, Bob was getting used to his new look…and taking some dangerous risks.
“Once the hair was off, he was walking around,” Liz said of the newly-energized Bob. “I saw him looking up at the counter thinking, ‘I can jump up there.’” Bob wanted to take advantage of his newfound freedom, but it wouldn’t be easy.
Bob still had many obstacles to overcome: His weight, for one, was more than a couple extra pounds. At 22.6 pounds, he’d need a significant lifestyle change so he could be as mobile and flexible as possible.
Happily, one of Bob’s main obstacles was easily surpassed when he was adopted by a loving family. Since he’s already 10 years old, Bob has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to scratching up furniture and frolicking through the backyard!