When Sinbad the cat showed up at the Anti-Cruelty Society, an animal shelter in Chicago in the US, he weighed 5kg – and nearly half of that weight was fur.
The eight-year-old Persian’s hair was grey, matted and full of poo and maggots. It was a shocking sight, and the result of years of lack of grooming. Shelter workers spent several hours shaving off part of Sinbad’s fur, then sedated him for a second shaving session.
“It really did look like he was dragging a carpet behind him,” said Colette Bradley, a spokeswoman for the society.
In the six weeks since Sinbad’s arrival at the shelter, his fur has started to grow back – and it’s white and fluffy. He’s been adopted by a shelter employee, Elliott Serrano. And in a most unlikely turn of events, he’s become a social media darling.
Sinbad, with the help of Serrano, has grown an Instagram following of more than 7,200 people in the past two weeks – hardly Lil’ Bub levels, but not bad for a newbie to the wide world of internet cats. He’s got nearly that number of followers on Facebook. The back story helps too, as does his Grumpy Cat-like face.
Sinbad’s rebound began in December last year when a utility worker visiting the cat’s former home noticed him in the basement. She called the Anti-Cruelty Society, which sent over investigators, and the owner, who Bradley said was “just really unaware of the needs of a Persian cat, and in failing mental health,” agreed to give him up.
Beneath the dingy fur, Sinbad was underweight. But even so, Bradley said, “as soon as that hair was off, he was going up to people and rubbing up against them”.
Serrano wasn’t planning to travel for the holidays, so he took Sinbad home when the shelter closed for a few days. He soon decided to make the relationship permanent.
“The first week he was with me, he would lie on me, and he was still kind of smelly,” Serrano said. “I was like, ‘Oh buddy, you’re a nice guy, but we’ve gotta take care of the smell.’”
These days, Sinbad smells fine, and is feisty, said Serrano, who said he’s taken to the role of being “like his handler. I’m his agent.”
Sinbad “is the perfect story to tell and share”, Serrano said. “He’s a perfect example of what it’s like when people step up and show they care and intervene for those in need.”