Written by Jill Oliver and photographed by Chris Wall Photography
My orderly life with my (then) two therapy dogs, 14-year-old Standard Poodle, Daisy (who sadly passed away last year), and rescued ginger-bearded Labrador-mix, Dixie, was totally disrupted by the arrival of a disabled kitten, whom I named ‘Je Suis Jolie’ (‘I am pretty’).
After losing my distinctly doglike rescue cat, Lancelot, to cancer in September 2014, I decided: no more cats! They get lost, stuck in gutters and trees, slip through narrow spaces and under gates. So, no more anxious sleepless nights and days worrying about missing cats for me.
Less than five months later, my friend and fellow Therapy Dog handler, Dido Panagiotopoulos, asked me to accompany her to see a tiny disabled kitten which had been found in the veld by some children who’d taken her to a shelter. I said: “NO, I don’t want another cat!” Dido persisted, and eventually I gave in.
First sight was instant love and the name ‘Je Suis Jolie’ came to mind because this little scrap was beautiful despite the grubby fur, runny eyes, stubby whiskers (due to malnutrition) – and crippled back legs. When I brought Jolie home she was very scared, hiding behind the toilet or under the bed; only food lured her out. But, with time, patience, coaxing, lots of TTouch® (a type of gentle touch-based body work designed to improve bonding and calm stressed animals) and love she has flourished. She has filled out, her whiskers have grown ever so long – and so has her ‘pawsonality’.
Running on two legs
Unfortunately, Jolie’s back tibias (the ‘shin’ bones) are useless and her legs are quite twisted. Her claws need to be trimmed regularly as they don’t retract or get worn down, and she can hurt the ends of her paws sometimes. I know that many would advise having a kitten like this sent over the Rainbow Bridge, but, as Cora of CLAW (where Jolie came from) says, the mere fact that Jolie had been rescued as she was meant that she deserved a chance at life.
And, my goodness, is she giving it a go! She runs like the wind when she wants to. She also climbs onto high beds or couches, and then jumps off onto her front legs, on which she proceeds to run like a child walking on her hands. I feel enormously grateful to have been granted the responsibility of giving this little soul with her HUGE ‘pawsonality’ a chance at a full and loving existence.
Dido says that Jolie always shows her joie de vivre and that she doesn’t know she is different or special, just that life is now good and full of adventure. She may not be a high or long jumper, climber or athlete, but plopping off the couch onto the floor or trying to claw up a curtain, or receiving dog licks are all huge adventures... and she is up for the challenge.
Beauty more than fur deep
Jolie is the most adorable, spunky, cheeky and vocal kitten I have ever had the pleasure of being owned by! She took a while to get used to the dogs when they wanted to smell and greet her but soon she was hell bent on terrorising them. Dixie, who was washed and groomed by Lancelot, now gets Jolie to groom him too.
Every morning I am awoken by a soft growly meow, my face being washed, and having a little fluffy body wriggling all over me and being head-butted. She is very vocal and we are always having conversations in varying and distinctively different tones of meow. She has taught me a dictionary of kitty speak!
Jolie doesn’t know she is handicapped and makes the best of everything. I am totally enchanted by Jolie and she has crept into my heart.
To preserve her ability to balance, one curled hind foot and tibia (lower leg bone) – which hindered her movement - were amputated, along with the end of her ‘chameleon tail’ so she no longer gets hooked up on things. This means that her back is straighter and she balances much better on her front legs. She still makes use of her thighs for balance - and running, running, running in her lopsided gait! Picture a body builder without legs doing push-ups; that's how Jolie gets around. None of this bothers her in the slightest – she gets on with life, full of the joys of living and mischief!
She hangs onto my legs when I walk, interferes when I make the bed, pokes her nose into everything (including investigating coffee, tea and even wine), and inspecting the dinner plate. She is such a nosy little soul, wanting to check out everything. I am quite convinced she is half puppy!
She has since grown into a lovely affectionate kitty, but not one to be picked up and cuddled; only when she is on the ground or the bed. Then she rolls around wanting to have every part of her body rubbed or scratched or stroked, especially her ears and tummy!
Life with Jolie really is beautiful.