Baron the alley cat has eight more lives to live.

The feral cat that was doused with gasoline July 14 and presumed dead returned to the South Coast Humane Society in Brookings Tuesday night.

Employees there were able to trap him and take him to Town and Country Animal Hospital the next day.

He was quite a bit worse for wear, they said.

Oh, and Baron — is a Baroness, the vet informed the shelter employees.

“We had no idea,” said volunteer Annette Moore, laughing. “All this time, we had no idea.”

It’s no wonder, actually, considering the feral cat wouldn’t let anyone get within 3 or 4 feet of her.

“He’s — she’s — a lot different from the big, fluffy cat we all got to love,” said shelter manager Jennifer Harrah. “She’ll need some good care.”

The white and tabby cat has lingered around the edges of the animal shelter for the past four years, and last month, an employee heard a “horrible noise” outside. Thinking something had happened to an animal, she searched the area and found the cat in a bush, its fur sticking out in all directions.

Baroness, as they’re now calling her, was screaming in pain and reeked of gasoline. She ran away from her would-be rescuers. Shelter employees only saw her one more time, and many assumed the cat had died.

Veterinarians say gasoline on a cat’s skin or near its mouth will kill the animal as it absorbs the gas through its skin. If an animal tries to lick it off, it can burn its mouth, esophagus and stomach, and breathing it can irritate the lungs.

Learning that Baron is female wasn’t all the shelter workers discovered after her six-hour stint at Town and Country. The veterinarian said the cat might have had a home in the past, as she is spayed. She tested negative for feline leukemia and AIDS. She also got a bath, was treated for fleas and was inoculated for various feline maladies.

“Big patches of fur are missing,” Moore said, “but apparently there’s no rawness, no open sores.”

Despite searches and traps — they caught a stray cat and a raccoon — no one saw Baroness in the past month.

“She must have holed up somewhere and recuperated,” Moore said. “I know cats will go off to some quiet place to die, but they also go off to some quiet place to recuperate. She’s scared, but she’s back at the shelter; it’s the only thing she knows.”

Once she recovers, they’ll set her free again. She has a small outdoor house and regular food and water there — and she knows it.

“She waits around for dinner to be served,” Moore said. “We’ll let her live here, but she’s still feral.”

While others weren’t so sure, Moore felt Baroness might survive her ordeal.

“I never give up hope,” Moore said. “Every day, we’d be out checking. We had hope, but no luck. It’s heartbreaking to think an animal’s out there suffering. But she’s home. We’re a happy bunch of people at the shelter today. It’s a good feeling.”

The shelter is accepting donations to cover the cost of Baroness’ treatment.

Those interested in assisting can call 541-412-0325.