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Herby the black cat seeks fur-ever home on Vancouver Island

Alberni-Clayoquot SPCA staff throw party for one-year old cat who has spent 70-plus days in care
Herby enjoys a treat from Alberni-Clayoquot SPCA branch employee Kayla Castellarin on Herby’s first birthday, Friday, Jan. 20, 2023. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Herby the cat needs a home.

Herby, a long-haired domestic cat, has spent more than 70 days at the BC SPCA Alberni-Clayoquot branch after he was picked up near the Port Alberni Train Station, suffering from what staff first thought were head injuries. After extensive vet care, the one-year-old is ready to be adopted.

Herby’s journey has been a strange one, SPCA employee Kayla Castellarin said. When he was first picked up, he acted like he had been hit by a car: his vision was affected and he was uncoordinated when he walked. He was a “singleton,” not one of a group of feral cats.

After extensive testing, veterinarians determined he was suffering from toxoplasmosis.

Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a single-cell parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. It is considered a common parasitic disease, and according to the Cornell Feline Health Center can infect nearly all warm-blooded animals, including humans.

Castellarin said toxoplasmosis is not common for this area, and especially not in such a young cat. “We don’t really see it very often. I’ve been here for 10 years and I’ve never seen it. The vets were surprised.”

Herby’s infection was so progressed at that point that his neurological symptoms mimicked those of a cat that had been hit by a car. He went through treatment and the parasite is no longer active, or “shedding.”

Staff at the SPCA threw a birthday party for Herby on Friday, Jan. 20, decorating his living space with balloons, a sign, even a small felt birthday crown affixed to the fourplex cage. Herby enjoyed numerous treats throughout the day.

“We decided to do something fun to spread awareness,” Castellarin said. “He’s a black cat, and they’re always hard to adopt out anyway. Being special needs, he needs a boost.”

Herby is still dealing with the after-effects of toxoplasmosis, even though the parasite is no longer active: he has trouble with his vision and senses.

Despite these ongoing challenges Herby is “quite the character,” she said. He’s quite the love bug when it comes to his food and treats, and although he is still sensitive to touch due to his condition “he has started to allow us to have some gentle pets…but it will be a slow and gradual process since being approached is still scary for him when he can’t quite see it coming,” she added.

Due to Herby’s ongoing health issues, he needs to be an indoor cat, and shouldn’t go to a home with people who are immunocompromised or pregnant. There is a chance his toxoplasmosis could reoccur, Castellarin said.

The first step to adopt Herby is the application:

Anyone wishing to contribute to Herby’s previous medical costs are urged to go online to

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Susie Quinn

About the Author: Susie Quinn

A journalist since 1987, I proudly serve as the Alberni Valley News editor.
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