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Feline sweeps up in Bissell contest
Local cat wins big for animal shelter

 Vincent D. Cat, official spokes-cat of Rikki's Refuge Animal Sanctuary in Orange County, inspires through his disability and, now, contest win.
DEBRA BARRETT
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Date published: 5/2/2011

BY EDIE GROSS

Vincent D. Cat was in rough shape when he arrived at Rikki's Refuge Animal Sanctuary in Orange County about 11 years ago.

He'd been crossing a road in Richmond--his caretakers assume he was on his way to visit a lady friend--when he was struck by a car.

His right hind leg had to be amputated, and his other hind leg was broken in four places. Spinal injuries made it hard for him to use a litter box, and he relied on a catheter for nearly two years.

But Vincent thrived in the loving environment of Rikki's Refuge and has become a celebrity of sorts, visiting local schools to teach compassion for the disabled as well as the importance of spaying and neutering your pets.

Naturally, he's got a blog and a Facebook page boasting several thousand fans. And his popularity's likely to grow once his face starts showing up on packaging for Bissell, a Michigan-based manufacturer of cleaning products and vacuums.

Vincent placed second in the company's Most Valuable Pet photo contest, which accepted more than 40,000 entries from the United States and Canada.

In addition to becoming one of the faces of Bissell, Vincent was awarded $5,000 to use at Rikki's Refuge, home to 1,250 other animals.

"That's a huge amount," said Kerry Hilliard, the sanctuary's executive director and the person Vincent sometimes refers to on his blog as "she who opens cans."

"We make it on a dollar a day per animal, but that's still $1,200 a day--and we make it by begging and pleading," Hilliard said. "So we are thrilled and surprised."

OFFICIAL SPOKES-CAT

Hilliard opened the nonprofit sanctuary in 1998 on a 330-acre spread that came with a blue tick hound named Bandit, three cats--two of whom were pregnant--and a handful of chickens.

These days, Rikki's Refuge, which has grown by another 37 acres, is home to 22 different species, including goats, emus, sheep, pot-bellied pigs, peacocks, chickens, ducks, horses, guinea pigs, dogs, cats and at least one cow.

Some are elderly or sick. Others have mental or physical disabilities. Most would have been euthanized at traditional shelters, but at Rikki's, volunteers feed, love and care for them until they're adopted or they pass away naturally.


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The 337-acre sanctuary in Orange County is home to 1,250 animals covering 22 species. Volunteers offer tours every Sunday at noon, and the facility will celebrate its 13th birthday with an open house on Aug. 14.

For more information about the nonprofit shelter, visit rikkisrefuge.org or call 540/854-0870.