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Disability? What disability?

One early afternoon in August 2019, we received a desperate voicemail from a young lady who had found a tiny black kitten on the side of a farm track, clinging to life, with tiny meows being the only sign of life. Volunteer Rene, who had been teaching us everything we need to know about Shelter admin, took the call and gathered as much information as she could whilst another volunteer rushed out to collect the kitten.

Once it arrived, it was rushed into Marion’s house who proceeded to clean up and search for any clues to why she was left behind – could it have been an animal attack, or did mum simply leave her kitten behind for some reason? We soon found out she had distinct wounds around her neck, and it was more than likely a bird of prey had swooped down, taken the kitten then dropped her from a great height – something they do to kill their prey. For some unknown reason, she was not picked up. We suspect it was her loud screams that scared the bird away!

Once the wounds were cleaned up, she was taken to Quarry Vets to ensure there was not more we could do for her and to make sure it was not unkind to keep fighting for her if she were too far gone. Thankfully, she was surprisingly healthy considering her start. A good gag reflex meant she could be bottle fed successfully, so Marion set about hand rearing the young two-week old kitten. Already hand rearing another kitten at the time, the job just became twice as hard! But the kitten, Lucky as she was nicknamed, thrived and hit her development markers steadily.

As she got older, it was clear she had a wobble to her walk, almost like her back legs did not quite follow the motions she was trying to do. Her head often refused to follow her target, opting to turn her whole body instead. Whilst she was still young, it was unclear whether her issues were physical or neurological, or maybe even both! But we waited until she was older before we investigated further.

After falling in love with Lucky she was soon fostered into our house. Keeping with the theme of lucky to be alive, we called her Clover. She has regular check-ups to ensure we are doing the most for her. Being such a fascinating case, we are still learning from her daily and despite disabilities that should be crippling for a young cat, she is living life to the full and is often showing us that she does not know any different. Recent investigations have shown that she has abnormal gait – hypermetric (meaning she oversteps often) and ataxic (meaning her walks are uncoordinated). The Vet also suspect her neck is fused around the area her injuries were, something they would only be able to tell by an X-Ray, and since it is not something they can fix, we have opted not to do. Spinal damage is also likely due to the fall she would have experienced as a baby, but we know she is not in pain and is closely monitored by the experts to make sure it does not become painful for her.

Despite her rough start and her disabilities, Clover is a happy young cat who is not afraid to tell you what she wants and when she wants it! Running rings around her older feline housemates, she is often found playing with our two sister cats who are a couple years older than her or sleeping by the window.

Famous in our household as the stompy little sassy girl with a tiny squeak of a meow, she has become an amazing addition to our family, and we will be forever grateful to Marion for bringing this bundle of excitement up and letting us take her in. She has taught us so much in the year or so we have had her and no doubt she will teach us more as time goes on. She has shown us that not every disability stops a cat from having the best life possible, and just because she is disabled, she is not in pain and we should not assume so.

Some cats are dealt a bad hand, like humans, but if you give them the chance, they will show you it does not have to define them, and a little bit of love goes a long way. And boy, do we love Clover!

Sisters Rachael and Karen Ashton have been Shelter volunteers for 4 years, covering a range of roles from Administration to Homing Team.

Photograph supplied by Rachael and Karen Ashton

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