This article is about Benny the Cat, who, with a lot of help from his friends, survived animal abuse and is now living the life. The following are resources for domestic-violence survivors: spcaLA’s Animal Safety Net (ASN) program, established to provide temporary, undisclosed boarding locations for pets of domestic-violence survivors; the Red Rover Safe Escape grant program that offers case-by-case boarding funding; SafePlaceforPets.org listing of shelters that accept pets; the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233. Find a shelter for yourself and any human family members, and file a police report. Doctors and hospitals are good resources for referrals.
Beverly Leifer fell madly in love with Benny the first time she saw him at the shelter.
“It was his face—the big, round eyes, the crooked smile. And then, I found out his story,” she said.
Benny had been brought to Long Beach Animal Care Services under another name. He was the victim of severe abuse at the hands of an adult. He had been squeezed several times until his ribs cracked and thrown against a shower wall. The impact broke his jaw. The poor cat was only 7 months old when he was brought in, and it wasn’t known how long the abuse had gone on. He nearly died of it.
The mother of the abuser’s girlfriend had brought the little cat in to the shelter; the girlfriend’s 5-year-old child came along and told about the abuse. The child later recanted their story, and the abuser was not prosecuted. There was no justice for Benny the Cat, as his first Beverly-created Facebook page was called. The intent of the page was a letter- and email-writing campaign fueled by Beverly’s fury that the abuser hadn’t been charged and arrested.
“I was so angered and saddened every time I looked at the adorable face with the crooked smile, I just cried,” she said. “After a while of that, I looked at him living life, playing with his siblings, and I thought, you know what? He’s got his justice! Benny is surviving and thriving, and that’s his justice. So, I changed the page—it has a different purpose now—raising awareness of resilience, survivorship and the link between animal abuse and domestic violence—a huge mission! And to spread joy and hope!” The page is now titled Benny the Cat’s Justice.
Beverly said that the shelter had spent what funds they could on Benny’s surgery and was trying to get approval for what might have amounted to around $10,000. Beverly had wanted to adopt him. The Helen Sanders CatPAWS rescue contacted Beverly and offered to foot the surgery bill if Beverly would foster to adopt. The offer didn’t require any forethought on Beverly’s part, and so CatPAWS pulled Benny and paid for the doctor visits, surgery and neutering. That was touch-and-go because Benny had a heart murmur on top of everything.
“He needed his left hip repaired to allow him to walk,” Beverly said. “His jaw was misaligned [after initial surgery], but he was drinking, eating and breathing well. Doing more [fixing the jaw] would have been a much longer haul.”
But, as Beverly said, Benny survived. And thrived. During the cat’s recovery from his surgical procedures and the months following, Beverly updated the Facebook page, started a Benny Instagram account, and shared his story everywhere. She put together a picture storybook about his life, entered him in Catster magazine’s America’s Favorite Pet contest in 2021 in which he made finals, and had multiple articles written about Benny and his link to domestic-violence awareness.
In August 2019, Beverly held a birthday bash celebrating Benny’s second birthday. It was a notable event considering doubts as to whether Benny would have been around to celebrate his first year. Proceeds from the event went to Long Beach Animal Care Services and to Helen Sanders CatPAWS in gratitude for what they’d done for him.
COVID-19 prevented anything other than a couple of subsequent virtual birthday bashes, but Benny’s pulling out all the stops for his fifth birthday party, which will take place Saturday, Aug. 27. Proceeds will again go to CatPAWS. (See Great furballs of fun for details.)
“Now, we’re going back to an in-person event,” Beverly said. “We want to raise awareness of animal cruelty, and Benny’s resilience. He’s the ambassador of joy and hope, as our volunteer Lance said, and we want to spread that around.”
Meanwhile, Benny’s leading a wonderful life with his loving, attentive human and enjoying the heck out of it. As with all abuse and violence victims, though, recovery is never final either emotionally or physically.
“I honestly believe he has nightmares—he violently thrashes, he’ll fall off the cat tree or the couch,” Beverly said. “They aren’t seizures—I’m convinced it’s mental. After, he just goes back to sleep. Any other time, he’s just loving life. I take him out in the stroller, and he loves attention from people. Even with the permanent injuries, he’s a remarkable being. Someone called him a warrior and not just a survivor.”
Unfortunately, Benny recently demonstrated some pain and instability, and Beverly found that it’s arthritis from his abuse injuries, at only 5 years old. The instability in his leg can never be fully fixed, and that limits him, too. She said that he’ll have to deal with flare ups from it his entire life.
“I hope it’s a long one,” she said. “It’s brought up anger and grief in me, but I look at him and see that it doesn’t stop him from being Benny. I credit LBACS medical staff, employees and volunteers, the cruelty investigators and volunteers, and CatPAWS for what they did for Benny. When I agreed to foster him through his surgery and his remarkably fast recovery, I didn’t go in blindly—I knew that the future held issues. I thought it might be later and not while he’s so young. That’s where my anger returns but also a resolve to help him go through the flare ups as best as possible.”
Benny was fortunate that an adult in the abusive home brought Benny to the shelter and that Beverly and Benny found each other, but that’s one happy case out of too many. If you know anyone suffering domestic violence whether they have pets, children or are just by themselves, please access the resources at the beginning of the article.
Helen Sanders CatPAWS has rescued so many cats, some in conditions nearly as dreadful as Benny’s. They’re thriving now and are ready to go home. Check them out here, and fill out an adoption form to prequalify. Here are a few of the cuddlers, in pre-Halloween orange-and-black mode!
Great furballs of fun!
FOLBA’s 33rd Anniversary Celebration and Casino Event: Friday, Aug. 26, 7 p.m., The Modern, 2801 E. Spring St., Long Beach, tickets $50, $75 and $100, see details and purchase tickets here
The most venerable animal-welfare organization in Long Beach is celebrating 33 years of helping our city’s pets: funding surgical procedures at the shelter, paying for countless spay/neuter procedures, giving grants to animal rescues for their operations, funding special projects for clinics and shelters—too many to count on the toe beans of four paws. As you can tell by the continuing need in our community and communities everywhere, Friends of Long Beach Animals is nowhere near done working; however, they have lots of good stuff to celebrate! To combine the two, FOLBA is proud to present a night of casino games and fundraising (dress to impress!). Enjoy a full bar, participate in raffles, stuff your face with food, meet some adoptables and two beneficiaries of FOLBA’s efforts, and have a chance to be on Pawz TV. All money raised will help fund FOLBA’s good works. Hey, if you wanna gamble your money away, here’s the best way possible!
Benny the Cat’s 5th birthday party and fundraiser: Saturday, Aug. 27, 11 a.m.–3 p.m., Marina Community Center, 151 Marina Drive, Seal Beach, tickets $20, children 10 and younger free.
Benny, the brave little cat who nearly lost his life to domestic abuse, is now living the life and is ready to celebrate his fifth birthday. He wants you to come to the party! He promises games, raffles, live entertainment, vendors, food, party favors and kittens for adoption. Of course, he’ll be the guest of honor. Purrrr-chase your tickets here! All money raised at Benny’s fifth birthday party will help his fellow kitties at Helen Sanders CatPAWS, the organization that paid for his surgery. That’s the only birthday present he’s asked for!
A helping paw
Council District 8 announces 60-day amnesty for new or late pet licensing fees for designated residents
A resolution introduced by Councilman Al Austin and passed by the City Council provides a temporary amnesty program that waives a first-time pet licensing fee and late penalty fee for an expired pet license for residents of Community Development Block Grant-designated areas in Long Beach can apply to an HUD grant program that will waive fees for new and late pet licenses until Aug. 23. Access this map to determine whether you live in a CDBG zone, or call 562-570-1326 or email [email protected].
12 months of pets!
The pet calendars are getting an early start! Enter your own calendar grrrls or purrrrls and help fund rescues and their good works!
Show Us Your Kitties!, Helen Sanders CatPAWS, votes $5 each, reserved days $15 each, closes Sept. 3, deadline extended
Help Helen Sanders CatPAWS raise money to save cats from public shelters! Submit a photo of your kitty, or vote for your favorite feline in the contest. You can also submit a kitty photo for a special day on the calendar. The top vote winner at the conclusion of the contest will have their choice of month to feature their cat as a pinup pm on the calendar. The next 12 top-vote recipients will become Helen Sanders CatPAWS Calendar Cats for each of the remaining calendar months between January 2023 and January 2024. Up to six runner-up photos after the top 13 vote recipients will be featured with larger photos and name on the front cover! Enter now at this link!
Foster for awhile—or furever!
If you’ve always wanted a pet but aren’t sure if you’re ready for a lifetime (the animal’s) commitment, or if you’re past the pet-roommate days for any reason, fostering might be a great way to go, especially with one or more of the kittens popping up during kitten season. Every one of the organizations listed below is in desperate need of fosters who’ll social them and help save their little lives. Who knows—maybe one of those lives will change your mind about the not-ready-for-roommate thing!
These nonprofits also regularly feature cat, dog and rabbit adoptions. As of now, adoptions are mainly by appointment. Click on the links for each rescue in case of updates or changes. These organizations operate through donations and grants, and anything you can give would be welcome. Please suggest any Long Beach-area rescues to add to the list.
- Ally’s Animal Network
- Bunny Bunch
- Cat Cove
- Friends of Long Beach Animals
- Fix Long Beach
- Feline Good Social Club
- Helen Sanders CatPAWS
- House of Broken Cookies
- Jellicle Cats Foundation
- K-9 Kismet
- Little Lion Foundation
- Live Love Animal Rescue
- Long Beach Animal Care Services
- Long Beach Spay and Neuter Foundation
- Newborn Feline Rescue
- Pet Food Express Cat Adoption Center
- SAFE Rescue Team
- Seal Beach Animal Care Center
- Sparky and the Gang Animal Rescue
- Stray Cat Alliance
- Wrigley Kittens
- Zazzy Cats