Valentine was hardly more than a kitten when he was dropped off at a Los Angeles shelter missing his claws.
Even worse, the surgery was so brutally botched, it left Valentine in searing pain. His paws were so infected, the staff wasn't sure if he would even survive.
"He was in so much pain, he was acting out," Jennifer Conrad, a veterinarian and founder of The Paw Project, tells The Do. "He was biting. He was terrified."
Valentine's apparent aggression led him to being put on the shelter's euthanasia list
And if his picture hadn't found his way to Aurelie Vanderhoek, founder of Zoey Place Rescue, Valentine would not have been long for this world.
"I saw the picture and my heart dropped," Vanderhoek tells The Dodo. "The incisions the vet had made were not even stitched. They were left open to bleed.
"I said, 'I don't care how we're going to do this. He's coming with me.'"
Freed from his shelter cage, Valentine was brought to the Animal Healthcare Centre in Eagle Rock, where veterinarian Lisa Hsuan worked to ease the pain in his festering paws.
And a week later?
"Now, he's in my bathroom," Vanderhoek says with a laugh.
It took a few days, understandably, for Valentine to warm up to her.
"All I did was sit next to him," Vanderhoek recalls. "I gave him a small room to get control over. And I just let him come to me. And within three days, he was purring and playing."
Plenty of care also poured in from a community that had heard of the cat's plight.
Jackson Galaxy even donated calming remedies to soothe those troubled paws.
Perhaps most importantly, The Paw Project's program, is covering the bills for Valentine's spiraling medical expenses.
"We take animals who were going to lose their lives because they were declawed — and we rehabilitate them," Conrad says. "We've had a 100 percent success rate in finding these animals homes once they've been taken out of pain and the infection in their paws has been taken away."
And Vanderhoek took it upon herself to soothe Valentine's troubled mind — which is proving the easiest job of all.
"He gets startled very easily with loud noises. I think he was abused because he has very, very sharp triggers," she says. "He's playful. All he wants right now is to be held. He just wants to cuddle.
"This is a cat who just needs a nice, quiet environment and he'll be fine."
Vanderhoek credits an entire community of animal rescuers for coming together to give Valentine a real chance at a life — an opportunity that's all too often not given to declawed cats.
While some people think taking away a cat's claws makes them easier to deal with.
"There's no doubt that a declawed cat bites more often and bites harder because they've been robbed of their primary defense," Conrad explains. "Anytime you have a behavioral problem, you should treat it with behavioral management. Not with surgery.
Instead, she suggests simple alternatives like a scratching post or a toy. Because kittens will be kittens.
"That's what kittens do," Conrad says. "They attack each other. They attack toys. They go crazy doing their little kitten stuff. But that's because they're babies."
And now, thanks to an entire community's efforts, Valentine will get to be the kitten he was meant to be.