Cat Shot in Head with BB Gun Stays with Her Kittens

Cats are known to be fiercely protective of their young, but one new mother didn’t realize her own instinct – until it hit her in the head.

A Los Angeles County-based animal rescuer spotted a dirty, malnourished cat hovering over her five kittens last week, and didn’t suspect that there was anything seriously wrong when the cat hissed as she approached. The cat was just behaving the way mothers do.

When the cat and her weeks-old litter were taken to the Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., however, doctors noticed something out of the ordinary: the mother cat had been shot in the head with a BB gun. The BB entered through the top of her head and ended up behind her ear; her matted hair had covered up the wound.

“She had stayed with her kittens and hadn’t moved,” spokesperson Jessica Gercke tells PEOPLE. “We don’t know much, but what we do know is she stayed right there and didn’t leave her babies.”

After staffers removed the BB, gave her a full medical exam, spayed her and cleaned her up, the cat, now named Cindy, has been recuperating well. Her five kittens were made available for adoption on Friday, and they were all adopted by the weekend. Now that she’s seen all her kittens off, Cindy is looking for a forever home of her own.

“She’s a very loving, sweet cat,” Gercke says. “Cindy definitely warms up to people.”