Written by Brenda Bryden
Professional photography by Nat Gold ZA
From misery to miracle, this is Chrissy’s story.
The story begins in September 2019 when two young children delivered a little dilute calico cat to HAWK – Koinonia, a human and animal welfare organisation in Malmesbury. The cat appeared unable to use her back legs, and the children said she’d been like that for two weeks or so but was now not eating. Upon examination, it was discovered that the kitty’s back legs were paralysed, although there was movement in the tail. There appeared to be no apparent injuries: no bite marks or other injuries. HAWK – Koinonia was not in a position to help the cat with medical treatment and put out an appeal to the public.
Sharon Petersen from Sharon’s Foster Furries (SFF), a local (Cape Town Southern Suburbs) cat rescue group started by Cecilia Rosas Fuentes to support Sharon's volunteer work to help cats in distress, immediately leapt into action. At SFF, no cat is too big, too small, or too far away (or far gone), to be offered shelter, love, care and acceptance within the organisation’s space and resource limitations. So it was agreed that the little cat would be handed over to Sharon’s tender loving care.
In a wonderful display of true community spirit and co-operation, the crazy cat ladies of the Deep South Cat Chat Facebook group and Sharon’s Foster Furries organised to fetch and transport her from Malmesbury to Sharon’s Foster Furries in Glencairn. This little cat was in for a great adventure, as the journey was undertaken relay-style. HAWKS – Koinonia handed over the kitty to Kim van Stigt, who drove her as far as Wynberg, where she was then passed on to Samantha Cameron. She undertook the next leg of the journey to Tokai, where she was collected by Michelle van Minnen, who delivered her to Cecilia’s home in Noordhoek. And from there our now seasoned traveller was transported into Sharon’s welcoming arms and she named her Chrissy.
Sharon’s tender loving care soon saw Chrissy lapping up food and vocalising her appreciation and approval. Chrissy was taken to a private vet for assessment and tested negative for FeLV and FIV. The X-rays revealed no damage to her hip or spine, and it was suspected that the paralysis was probably due to nerve damage. Within minutes of Cecilia posting this update about Chrissy, the amazing cat community in the Deep South and further afield once more went into overdrive, and offers of support, donations and all kinds of assistance came rolling in.
A plan of action for Chrissy’s care and treatment was developed – this involved acupuncture by Dr Karyn Levy of Noordhoek Vet and the possibility of physio- and hydrotherapy and chiropractic treatment. Various suggestions regarding medication and alternate treatments were also considered. Community member Samantha Irving appealed to a good friend to manufacture and fit a set of wheels for Chrissy to enable her to be mobile. But many, including this writer, believed that Chrissy would walk again – she just needed to feel safe and loved and heal. And, more than any of us, Chrissy knew she could… she was determined to try and get those little legs moving. Chrissy believed with all of her beautiful feline mind and heart that if she kept trying, she could walk.
Dr Levy of Noordhoek Vet saw Chrissy for the first time on the 1st of October, and although she hadn’t yet seen the X-rays, she suspected that Chrissy’s hind leg paralysis was due to neurological damage, as no spinal fractures were detected on clinical examination. “Chrissy had poor pain reflexes in her back feet and her feet felt cold. She also had poor placement rand proprioceptive reflexes (the ability to feel surfaces and place feet flat down and not drag them), which suggested damage to the spinal cord and/or nerves,” explains Dr Levy. “She couldn’t stand at all or bear any weight, and she couldn’t feel very much in her back legs. But her brain was functioning and she was responsive in all other ways, although Chrissy did seem to have a lot of pain in the middle of her back.” So it was decided to proceed with acupuncture and homeopathic treatment.
“As Chrissy was quite dehydrated, I administered fluids under the skin as well as an antibiotic, just in case. I had noticed a small scab on Chrissy’s middle back, which could have meant she had been wounded somehow, so took the precaution of an antibiotic to prevent or treat any possible infection. I also injected homoeopathic solutions at four of the acupuncture sites,” says Dr Levy.
Meanwhile, someone had lent Sharon a Photizo Vetcare LED infrared massager. “This complementary treatment improves blood flow to the painful area and soothes,” says Dr Levy. Sharon started applying gentle movement with the massager over parts of Chrissy’s back, hips and back legs for 30 secs daily. Sharon says: “Chrissy can use a litter box independently; she doesn’t need nappies and is determined to walk, which I encourage.”
CHRISSY FINDS HER FEET
When Dr Levy next saw Chrissy (three days later), she noticed an improvement in her proprioception, as well as in her pain and withdrawal reflexes. Another round of homoeopathic and acupuncture treatment followed, and before her third treatment, Chrissy started to walk, albeit very falteringly and wobbly, and the soreness in the muscles of her mid back seemed greatly reduced. (See the video of Chrissy walking)
Chrissy will remain with Sharon under the care of Dr Levy for some time until it’s felt that she can be adopted. “I believe he will continue to make progress, and though she may never be able to climb trees, Chrissy should be able to live a happy life, provided she is not put into situations where she may need to run from a dog or out of danger,” says Dr Levy fairly confidently.
For now, the little cat that could and did walk is living the life of a princess, loved and adored by all her supporters and, of course, Sharon. And SFF will keep the wheels intended for Chrissy for another cat in need.
ABOUT SHARON’S FOSTER FURRIES
Sharon’s Foster Furries (SFF) is not a registered NPO or welfare organisation; it’s a voluntary, home-based group started by Sharon Petersen, Cecilia Rosas Fuentes and Denise Hardy to rescue, rehabilitate, foster and rehome cats and kittens. SFF is supported wholly by donations from a small group of passionate and caring cat lovers who are members of the Sharon’s Foster Furries and Deep South Cat Chat Facebook groups.
SFF has 1,051 members, of which around 50 make monthly donations towards the treatment and care of the organisation’s rescues, and is supported by several foster moms. The organisation is sorely in need of funds and urges more community members and animal lovers to commit to making a regular monthly donation. Without the support of a caring community, SFF cannot continue to positively change the lives of the many cats and kittens in need of help.