Over the past four months, I’ve had the privilege of rescuing, raising and rehabilitating a brave little paralyzed kitten named Chloe. At just a few weeks old, Chloe was brought to a DC-area shelter in bad shape. She was just one pound at the time and had no use of her back legs, tail or bladder. She was terrified and confused. When I first saw Chloe dragging her legs behind her in her shelter kennel, I didn’t know what to say aside from “…we’ve gotta help her, right?” That day I brought Chloe home and immediately set out to do everything I could to change her life.
Little did I know that it wasn’t just her life that would change. Raising Chloe was a transformative experience, and she taught me life lessons I didn’t know a kitten could teach. Chloe offers such beautiful wisdom through her bravery and love, and it’s no surprise to me that others have become as smitten with her as I am! Chloe was recently adopted into a special, wonderful forever home, but I’ll never forget the lessons she has taught me:
Hope Keeps Us Alive
Chloe had the cards stacked against her: she was orphaned at a young age, had a severe spinal injury and was in a high-volume animal shelter. It would be easy to consider her hopeless. Yet, the reason she is alive today is because of people who didn’t give up on her. Hope was her hero.
The shelter staff held onto her for two days, hopeful that a rescuer would take her in. When seeking medical care for her, I wouldn’t settle until I found providers who treated her with a hopeful approach. My partner and I raised her with love, not knowing if she would ever find an adopter who would want a cat in her condition, but we never gave up our hope. Hope was a key theme with Chloe, and now those dreams have all come true: she’s a happy, healthy cat who was adopted by a family who loves her dearly. Hope saved her life.
Acceptance is Good Medicine
Chloe taught me that it’s okay to be different and that it doesn’t have to be a tragedy to have special needs. For the first several months, I fought so hard to make Chloe walk again, and it wasn’t until she’d been to more than 30 vet appointments that I discovered what she truly needed most of all: to be accepted for who she is.
Chloe doesn’t know she is disabled, and the only sad thing about her condition is that other people assume she is sad. In reality, she is one of the most joyful animals I’ve ever known. Once I stopped denying that she does have a permanent condition and started accepting her exactly as she is, our relationship became so much more peaceful, and even fun! Chloe taught me that paralyzed cats don’t need pity, they just need opportunity. She is perfect in her own way.
Fun Comes in Many Forms
We’re so used to seeing cats on all fours that it’s easy to lament the idea of a cat that can’t run or jump. As it turns out, happiness and fun are subjective experiences and can take different forms depending on the individual.
Chloe’s ability to adapt and create her own fun has blown me away. She can glide through the house on two paws, hunting little mouse toys and carrying them in her mouth. She can climb a cat tree using her claws, and when she gets to the top, she lounges with her legs dangling off the back. She can play with other foster kittens and can keep up with them and enjoy their friendship.
Sure, she sits a little funny with her legs splayed in front of her, and she’s terrible at hide-and-go seek (she is often found hiding with her legs sticking out from under a blanket or couch) but it only makes her more endearing. Chloe does her thing, and she does it in her own unique way.
Empathy is a Gift
Caring for a paralyzed animal builds empathy in a way I can only attempt to describe. Empathy begins when we put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, and I’ve had to imagine myself in Chloe’s position in order to improve her life.
I take for granted that most cats can jump up to a cozy spot on the couch for a nap or that they can get themselves up and down stairs. But putting myself in Chloe’s position, I started to visualize the challenges she might endure with these activities, and it made into a better advocate for her. As a result, I installed shallow padded beds, stair runners and bedside steps for her. I got her toys that work for her body type. I constantly envisioned what life is like in her body so that I could make it better for her. When we experience empathy, we not only become better caregivers, but we are also rewarded with love and gratitude. It’s an incredible gift to be able to connect with another being in that way.
We’re Braver When We’re Brave Together
The decision to take on a paralyzed animal is not a casual one, and it requires bravery and commitment. All the things we’d like the animal to be, we must also be ourselves: brave, hopeful and dedicated to the process. Every step of the way, Chloe was wide-eyed and trusting, even when she was enduring scary procedures or meeting new doctors. Her strength required me to be stronger and to dignify her hopefulness with hope of my own.
Being brave allows us to grow in our abilities—to leave our comfortable space and find out what we are capable of. On this journey, Chloe and I have learned that we’re both capable of a lot.
You can keep up with Chloe in her new forever home at @gochloego.
Images via: Hannah Shaw
Hannah Shaw is the founder of Kitten Lady. Her mission is to change the way we perceive & treat animals—especially orphaned kittens.