Ten months ago, a 6-week-old kitten played alone in a vacant lot, unaware something was amiss. A kind construction worker spotted the tiny stray and took him to the HART shelter. Dubbed Alonzo, the alert kitten seemed normally active and friendly; but during the intake exam, HART’s medical director, Evelyn Zanella, noted some physical abnormalities: a disabled tail and an odd gait.
X-rays and an examination by veterinarian Dr. Taralyn Meusel confirmed a spinal injury that affected his back legs and prevented him from exerting conscious bladder and bowel control. She reported that his condition would require daily caregiver support. Euthanasia was rejected for this otherwise healthy kitten.
Based onexperience that included cats with similar medical needs, Dr. Meusel endorsed the decision. As she explained, given the right human support incorporating bladder expression and provisions for bowel incontinence, Alonzo could have a “fantastic quality of life as a family pet in the right household.”
In August, Alonzo’s nonfunctioning tail was amputated to help facilitate care and hygiene. In the hope of stimulating his spinal nerves, physical therapy, exercise and a series of acupuncture treatments were tried. While Alonzo experienced no significant improvement, he remains happily mobile.
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Despite his challenges, spunky Alonzo is growing into a delightfully affectionate cat under HART’s attentive foster care and veterinary and volunteer support. Medical Director Zanella currently fosters Alonzo in her home. Three times a day, he calmly accepts manual bladder expressions; diapers (which he tolerates with equanimity) mitigate his incontinence.
In most ways, Alonzo is a typical cat — playing, lying in the sun and wrestling with the resident cats. While human caregivers might label him “special-needs,” this young feline remains cheerfully unaware of any impediments. Dr. Meusel’s report concluded: “Our goal for Alonzo is to live a complete life with a human, or team of humans … willing to step in and essentially be the spinal cord and nerves that he does not have. Their reward would be a warm lap, lots of snuggles, and … priceless love.”
HART volunteer donors have made stem cell therapy a possibility for Alonzo. Check the HART website News and Events page for periodic updates.
The Homeless Animal Rescue team’s quarterly column is special to The Cambrian.