Written by AJ Visser
At just two weeks old, little Ariel and her siblings joined us. The tiny kittens came from an informal settlement where, sadly, their mother had died. They urgently needed bottle-feeding as they were too young to eat on their own. Fortunately, they were healthy and strong – and really took to being bottle-fed with special kitten milk formula. The little ones came to work with me daily so that they could get their feeding every few hours.
Disaster at home
Once they were old enough – around six or seven weeks – they were ready to stay home with my housekeeper to “babysit” them. All was going well until, one afternoon, disaster struck. A handyman had come in to do a few repairs around the house. While standing on a chair to reach something, the chair broke under his weight and he crashed to the ground. Ariel was in the way and was seriously injured.
I rushed home to take her to the vet. After 24-hour observation at the vet, I was advised that she would not recover and that it would be kinder to put her to sleep. But I couldn’t do it; her eyes were full of life and she was in no pain, so I decided to give her a chance. Ariel was paralysed in her back end.
The X-ray revealed the damage
We went for physio and for over a year tried to get her walking again. We even tried aqua therapy (and you know how much cats love water) and acupuncture. I was blessed to receive donations to assist me in all these therapies, for which I’m eternally grateful.
I was saving up for an MRI when the vet suggested that an X-ray should be done first as it is less expensive. This revealed the damage, and when it was sent to a specialist, he advised that surgery would not only offer no improvement but would put her at risk of dying on the operating table.
I then decided to let Ariel just be Ariel, a happy kitty who is not aware that she is different! She can use her front legs and gets around just fine.
Special needs kitty
Ariel is a cheerful, energetic girl but she does need extra help. Because she is unable to use a litter box, her bladder needs to be expressed two to three times a day. She also requires the occasional bath or sometimes just a “bum bath”.
She has a set of foam stairs up to my bed and blankets all around the house on the floor so she is comfortable. Ariel travels with me, especially if I’m required to stay over for the night; if Ariel is not allowed, I don’t go. She’s been to the coast on holiday and even to Tzaneen to visit a special kitty friend – Ariel is a well-travelled kitty cat.
Ariel loves to play – and outside is the best! She has a cat run with a hole knocked through to my bedroom so she can go outside when she wants to into a safe area. She is also the best moth hunter in the house. Believe it or not, Ariel climbs trees (with a little help from me) and does a lot of normal cat things. She is an inspiration with a “can do” attitude and she never gives up.
A while ago I was contacted and asked if we would be interested in attending the Breeders of Rex and Sphynx cat show. They wanted to create a section for special needs cats to create awareness to the public. It was arranged by Charnay Dean Haarhoff, who went to tremendous effort to make it happen.
Ariel, being true to her feisty cat nature, decided to hiss and spit at all the other kitties at the show… just to make sure everyone knew she was the boss. The judge had the most beautiful presence about her and Ariel really felt at ease with her. We were pleasantly surprised when Ariel was announced the winner of both the “Best special needs cat of the day” and “Special needs adult of the day” categories. It truly was an honour to be part of this event with so many beautiful kitties showing that they beat the odds!
I hope that Ariel can be an ambassador for other cats just like her, showing people that special needs cats can make incredible companions.