HANNIBAL, Mo. -- Zachariah Atteberry knows what it's like to have the odds against him.
When Atteberry's mother was battling thyroid cancer while she was pregnant with him, doctors gave Atteberry only a 10 percent chance of survival.
Atteberry is now 25 and wants to help cats, a favorite animal of his, have that same chance to live a long, happy life, no matter what hurdles might exist.
The result is Cuddle Cat Rescue, a years-long dream of his. The nonprofit rescue in the basement of Atteberry's Hannibal home takes up to eight cats at a time that need 24-hour, one-on-one care; behavior correction; or just more care and attention than an animal shelter with limited hours can provide. The rescue then adopts out the cats.
Since being founded by Atteberry in November and licensed in April, Cuddle Cat Rescue has taken in about 30 cats. Atteberry says the next closest cat rescue in Missouri is near St. Louis.
"Dogs tend to get more national attention than cats, sadly," Atteberry said. "Hopefully this rescue brings more awareness to the cats in our area."
The veterinary technician graduate and certified cat behavior specialist has taken in several memorable cats over the past several months. One cat lost its ears from frostbite. Another cat had one of its eyes removed, and a third cat came in with a broken jaw. One cat had life-threatening systemic sepsis and, like Atteberry, was given a 10 percent chance of survival.
"I really bonded with that cat when caring for it," he said.
Donations cover the veterinary costs of caring for the animals.
Most of the cats that end up in the rescue are pulled from the Northeast Missouri Humane Society. Other cats are brought in by people.
"Cuddle Cat Rescue really helps out because it helps clear our kennels, especially during kitten season," said Erin Matson, a Humane Society kennel technician who works with the shelter's cats. Her mother, Janet Matson, is assistant director of the rescue.
Atteberry said the biggest need for the rescue is having someone foster a cat. He's turned away cats that need help because there aren't enough people willing to foster a cat. Also needed are cat food and litter.
"So far, people have been great about helping out with donations," Atteberry said.
Cuddle Cat Rescue will be at Dog Days of Summer, hosted by Homeward Bound Waggin' from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Quincy Mall in Quincy, Ill.
For more information about the Hannibal rescue, go to CuddleCatRescue.com or call 573-795-9840.