Kitten lost legs, but kept fighting spirit

Cassidy survived after losing his back feet at birth.

By all rights, Cassidy shouldn’t be alive today.

The black and white kitten was spotted scrambling around on his front legs at a rural property in the Otter-Aldergrove area of Langley.

His back feet appeared to be missing completely, and the kitten clearly wasn’t doing so well.

The landowner called in Shelly Roche of Tiny Kittens and set to work trying to catch the small cat. Eventually using an improvised box trap, the wily kitten was trapped and brought in to a local veterinarian’s emergency room.

“You could feel all his little bones,” Roche remembered.

He was just nine weeks old, and had apparently survived being unable to properly walk on his back legs since shortly after he was born. It’s possible his mother accidentally bit off his feet, if they were tangled in the umbilical cord, Roche said.

The first vets who saw him weren’t sure if he would survive. Aside from his major injuries, he had a septic E. coli infection, he was emaciated, and he was about half the size of his brother, Topper.

“He had gone about as far as he could go on his own,” said Roche.

After a trip to an emergency vet, he was taken to Dr. Renee Ferguson of the Mountain View Veterinary Hospital.

“When he was first brought in, he was emaciated,” Ferguson said.

“Really, we didn’t know if he was going to make it,” she said.

If he did recover, what would happen to him? Cassidy had no owner, would need lifelong extra care and veterinary treatment, and might never be able to walk.

The volunteers and vets were determined that he survive, however.

Ferguson cleaned up his wounded legs, and will do some more surgery once Cassidy is stronger.

Cassidy himself also has a strong will to live, Roche said.

“Everyone who sees him knows he’s such a fighter,” she said.

Roche put Cassidy up on the live internet feeds at her Tiny Kittens website. Tiny Kittens has a huge online following, and a post asking for help with pet prosthetics unleashed a flood of help.

Locally, Handicapped Pets Canada, based in Abbotsford, has already approached Roche and sized up Cassidy for a custom-built tiny wheelchair to allow him to run around using his front legs alone.

Two Walnut Grove Secondary students have also suggested using their school’s 3D printer to make progressively larger wheelchairs, scaling up as Cassidy grows.

Roche is even looking into implanted prosthetic feet. A British feline dubbed Oscar the bionic cat lost his rear feet in 2009 to a combine harvester, and had specialized prosthetics implanted into his rear legs.

It’s also possible that he will learn to walk by balancing on his front legs, said Ferguson. Other animals have managed the trick.

Right now, the focus is on making sure that whatever solution is adopted, Cassidy has a good quality of life.

He is already off his pain medication and is full of energy, playing with his brother Topper and other cats, charging around the house as well as he can.

He’s learning to use an accessible litter box made up for him, and he’s “about 40 per cent” when it comes to using it, Roche said.

Ferguson said the survival and future adoption of Cassidy sends and important message about cats.

“I have never had a two-legged cat patient,” she said.

Cats, especially strays, are often considered disposable. Many shelters or vets, given a cat in such dire straits, would have simply put him down.

Eventually, Cassidy will need a new permanent home, and an owner willing to give him a lot of care.

Cassidy can be seen at the TinyKittens live cam HERE.

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