She came to us already an adult cat, at the approximate age of 6 or more. While she had been spayed, it did appear that she had a litter at some point. She was morbidly obese (something I quickly tried to remedy) and resembled a small panda bear. She had two prior homes already, the last caregiver going into a nursing home and couldn't take her. Would I? Asked a friend.
Our bond was instantaneous..........
This is the story of Lily, a courageous and determined cat.
Although my two other cats immediately embraced her, Lily rejected my youngest cat, Eloise, despite the warm welcome Eloise extended to her. Lily repeatedly attacked Eloise and, since Lily was three times her size, this was quite the concern for us obviously. After six unsuccessful months of trying to get Lily and Eloise to accept each other and separating them when we weren't home, Lily became our outdoor cat.
One evening Lily was outside with my youngest son. He said she was chasing a lizard and then just froze. Her two back legs gave out from underneath her - she was paralyzed. She regained the use of one hind leg within thirty minutes or so, but she still wasn't walking. The back leg was pointing straight out behind her, not tucked underneath. She wouldn't attempt to walk or even crawl, yet didn't seem in pain when I moved it. Did she just sprain her leg?
First thing the next morning, I took her to the vet. The vet examined her but needed to keep her a few hours to get x-rays and run other tests.
When the vet called a few hours later, I held my breath for the duration of the conversation. The diagnosis? Degenerative arthritis of the lower spine, exacerbated by her excessive weight. The prognosis? It was a 50/50 shot she'd ever walk again and, if she didn't regain use of her lower limb, it was advised to humanely euthanize her as caring for a paralyzed cat was no easy task and not very fair for the cat who would have a very low quality of life.
But, 50/50 odds were good enough for the vet (and me) to give treatment a try.
The vet gave Lily an anti-inflammatory to reduce the swelling around the swollen discs. However, it would take 2-3 weeks before we would know for sure if it would work.
I picked her up and made her comfy in the bathtub in the spare bathroom on some blankets. For a litter pan I bought an aluminum cookie sheet and placed it on top of puppy training pads and just sprinkled some litter on it. After a few days I got rid of the aluminum pan altogether and she learned to just go on the wee wee pads.
|Lily just chilling in the tub.|
The first 72 hours were rough. She had to learn to drag herself off her blanket and over to the wee wee pads, less than a foot away from her. For those first few days she would just urinate on herself and I was constantly changing the blankets and bathing her. I couldn't stand for her to not be clean - a sign of dignity for cats.
I would practice healing touches on her, visualizing the spine being repaired. I would carry her outside and place her on a lounge chair to absorb some of the sun's healing powers. Each night I would sit on the bathroom floor outside the tub just to talk to her and let her know I was there.
I kept asking her to fight, and that if she was willing, I was willing to fight with her.
She had to go back to the vet again a few days later for an enema because she could not defecate without the control of her lower muscles. They said to bring her in every couple of days for that. No way! There must be a better way. I began mixing canned pumpkin and even baby food prunes into her canned food. Soon, she was able to go by herself and was getting better at dragging herself off her blanket and onto the pads.
I'll never forget the morning I woke up and heard scratching at the bathroom door. Oh my God, how did she get out of the tub? I ran and opened the door. There she was, still with that bad leg protruding out behind her, but she had somehow managed to jump out of the tub. This was a HUGE step toward recovery.
|Lily absorbing the sun's rays.|
I knew our physical therapy would begin. Lily is motivated by two things: food and love. We would have daily PT sessions where I would coax her to move toward me to get to her food bowl. Then, I noticed what worked even better. All I had to do was sit on the floor a few feet away and call her. With my encouraging voice and her desire for affection, she'd drag herself toward me. Then after a few minutes of loving, I'd move away and we'd start the process all over again.
By the second week, I noticed she was starting to awkwardly slip the paralyzed leg back up underneath her body and slightly put some weight on it. It was days later before I noticed her try to take a few steps using it, but the leg would inevitably slide behind her after a few steps. I must say, she got very good at dragging it, but I still struggled with the question of her quality of life. She was living inside, of course, and oddly, she and Eloise didn't have any issues. Eloise somehow understood Lily's condition and, in fact, both my other cats knew Lily was in dire straits.
Lily's physical therapy involved motion!
We stuck to it for a few weeks. The healing touches, the sun therapy, the exercise sessions......until one day she up and walked to the door leading outside. She was telling me that it was time she return to her normal life. She appeared to be feeling well enough. However, I didn't oblige her request at first. I monitored her progress for a few more days. Just shy of a month after the original incident, Lily was back to chasing lizards outside and hissing at Eloise.
Today, 18 months since the injury, I continue to work on her weight. Unfortunately, it isn't any easier for a pet to lose weight than it is for people to lose weight. She also continues to walk gingerly. But, despite the lingering limp, she runs and plays and, most of all, continues to be the most appreciative cat I've ever owned.