The cat with the padded pad

By David Dickson

Generally speaking, when it comes to cats and toys, the more a toy moves around the room the better. Something zipping across the floor is almost always more captivating to a cat than a toy that’s lying on a shelf. Not for Duke, however. All he needs to have the time of his life is to find a toy — any toy — waiting in his path. He takes it from there!

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Tammy and Duke

Duke is a young neurological cat who came to Best Friends six months ago from an elderly woman who could no longer keep up with his needs. From the beginning, he was a total sweetheart. Whether it’s other cats, toys, or people, he wants to play with them all. Excitement for life is definitely one of his defining characteristics.

Best Friends' cat caregiver Tammy Yamada says that when she greets him in the morning with an enthusiastic, "Hey Duke!" he always responds by thrusting out his paw as if to give her a high five. As a neurological cat, he can’t always hit the target (such as when he play-wrestles with Guardian Angel cat Montana).

But what he lacks in accuracy he makes up for with enthusiasm.

Speaking of enthusiasm, Duke sometimes goes a smidge overboard during his adventures. Because of the cerebellar hypoplasia, he has a severe wobble whenever he walks. He’s not in pain, nor is he stressed out by the condition. However, he does tend to tip over and bump into stuff -- especially when he’s determined to play so hard.

By the time he started earning a few goose eggs on the head, caregivers decided they had to help him out a bit. They moved Duke into a large, double door closet in the lobby area. For those familiar with Guardian Angel cat Masi, this used to be her closet before she was adopted.

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Duke in his pad

With Duke, the caregivers brought in pillows, bedding, and other soft materials all throughout the new digs: They covered floor, walls, and shelf support posts. Now he can play as rough as he wants and he’ll stay comfy as can be. He has frequent visits from other cats, which he never lets go to waste. He simply plays all the harder in the new, head-bonk-free accommodations!

One final example sums up the way Duke approaches life. A volunteer heard about his frequent tumbles and sent him a hand-knit headpiece with extra padding inside. It’s large, it’s bright red, and it has become Duke’s favorite toy in the world. … Okay, so maybe he doesn’t want to wear the thing. Rather, he loves to bat and chase the would-be helmet around the room in a total tumble frenzy.

As far as Duke is concerned, the simple things in life are the most rewarding. The best part? For him, it's are always just around the corner.

Photos by Sarah Ause

Duke and his friends would appreciate your support for their special needs. Consider being a Best Friends' sponsor.