WESTBROOK, Maine — Clark, a stray cat, is recovering from leg injuries caused when a Gorham police officer shot him last month, believing the animal was rabid.

“Clark’s doing well. He’s receiving vet care and treatment. He’s resting comfortably and certainly recuperating,” said Jeana Roth of the Animal Refuge League in Westbrook, where the cat was brought four days after being shot on Aug. 20. “Animals are certainly resilient, and Clark certainly is a strong boy.”

Roth said it will be “a couple of weeks, if not longer” before the cat can be adopted. Clark will be kept on cage rest to see if his injuries heal naturally; if not, he’ll get surgery.

In either case, she said, “he has a bright future ahead of him.” That’s a very different outlook than in late August, when a Gorham police officer, convinced the stray was rabid, reportedly fired a shotgun at him.

“One bone in each [front] leg has a shatter from a [gunshot],” Roth said.

The Portland Press Herald first reported that a Maple Ridge Road man told police the stray cat attacked his 7-year-old daughter. Responding officers were unable to catch the cat, and concerned the animal was infected by rabies — which, left unchecked, could spread dangerously among other animals in the area — one officer fired at the feline with a 16-gauge shotgun, the Press Herald reported.

The cat fled into the woods, and wasn’t seen again until he showed up four days later in the nearby yard of a woman who in the past had offered him food.

“He’s lived in this neighborhood in this community for about three years, with one community member making sure he was fed,” Roth said. “He was humanely caught by this woman who lived in the neighborhood. … He was rushed to the emergency room when he first got here, and he saw an orthopedic surgeon.”

Shelter veterinarians determined Clark — named after Superman’s alter ego, Clark Kent — actually did not have rabies after subjecting him to the required 10-day quarantine period.

Roth said the surgeon prescribed the cat cage rest, leaving the possibility of surgery if his legs didn’t heal on their own.

“We’ve been in communication with the Gorham Police Department, and they’ve agreed to help pay for some of Clark’s medical costs, so they certainly are assisting with that,” said Roth.

Roth said the refuge league works collaboratively with area animal control officers, and that residents who notice strays should try to get those animals to local shelters for medical help and placement with families.

“We hope that the message here is that if you have a stray animal in your neighborhood, use your shelter as a resource,” she said.

Roth said the refuge league has yet to begin fielding calls from people seeking to adopt Clark when he’s deemed medically ready.

“But I’m sure that will change once his story circulates,” she said.

Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.