Nel’s kittyreturns today after close call |

Nel’s kittyreturns today after close call

Tahoe Daily Tribune Staff Reports
Jim Grant/Tahoe Daily Tribune Rodent gets some affection from veterinarian Sharon Burns while recuperating at Sierra Veterinary Hospital.

Well-known cat suffers chronic renal failure

By Susan Wood

Tribune staff writer

Today Rodent is due to return home from the veterinarian with a second lease on life – for now.

Not bad for a 17-year-old male believed to have nine lives – and a “Backup.” Backup is the name of the 2-year-old companion found one day by the feline known as the Nel’s Hardware cat.

Rodent suffers from chronic renal failure. Employees, who greatly value the shop cat, noticed last Thursday that he lost a lot of weight and appeared more docile than usual. They rushed him to Sierra Veterinary Hospital.

From there, veterinarian Sharon Burns hydrated him.

“He won’t live forever, but they can keep him going if they keep him hydrated and give him vitamin supplements,” she said Monday.

Rodent’s estimated life expectancy may be six months.

“We noticed he wasn’t right. He’s normally a fat cat, and he got real skinny,” Nel’s worker Dave Ornellas said.

It shouldn’t be a stretch for this animal-loving crew of the longtime South Lake Tahoe business to help Rodent. The feline has made a lot of friends over the years. Ornellas estimates at least one in five customers pat the cat when they enter the store.

Nel’s workers bought Rodent a litter box and bed, placing it in front of the pot-belly stove, after rescuing the feral cat as a 2-month-old kitten feeding off a Tahoe Bowl trash bin.

Nevada Postal Service employee Sarah Needham, who found Rodent, recalled the cat’s younger days when he “chased away German shepherds.”

The employees collected money to neuter him. Afterward, he muscled his way into the store because the workers wanted to keep him comfortable.

When new owner Jeff Swigard took over the store and inquired about recommended changes, the suggestion box was dominated by customers wanting to ensure Rodent wouldn’t be laid off.

When he’s not working the customers, Rodent plays with screws and other small items dropped on the floor.

Store and office dogs and cats are common in Tahoe.

“Somebody once told me there are 3 to 1 pets to people here. It is a Tahoe thing,” Burns said.

She should know. Seventeen-year-old C.C., a cat, has the run of the veterinary practice on Harrison Avenue.

– Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at

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