Paralyzed cat has sweet spirit that can’t be stopped

Precious the black and white cat
Life for Precious hasn’t always been easy or kind, but she never fails to find something to purr about.
By Sarah Thornton

“Precious” is more than just a name for this fluffy, white-and-black cat; it’s who she is. Sweet, snuggly, and constantly curious, she’s a social butterfly who always finds herself fluttering to the heart of the action. Kitty cuddle puddles? Count her in. New visitors or volunteers? She’ll greet them at the door. And it wouldn’t be mealtime without those bright green eyes overseeing preparations (and maybe charming her way into an extra treat or two).

She’s Precious through and through, perpetually purring and seeking out friends and fun. If you didn't know her story, it would be hard to imagine that Precious' life before coming to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary was anything other than one filled with love, judging by the way she radiates it back to everyone she meets. But, while much of her past is a mystery, what we do know is this friendly feline has been through a lot to get to where she is now: safe, happy, and ready for a second chance at that love-filled life.

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From streets to sanctuary

A concerned passerby in California spotted Precious, alone in an alley, dirty, matted, and seemingly unable to move her back legs. Though she was bright and friendly, it was clear she needed help — quick. The good Samaritan rushed her to nearby Best Friends Network Partner Seal Beach Animal Care Center (SBACC), where veterinarians took a closer look at what was going on.

There was a small wound on her back, her tail was limp alongside her legs, and she didn’t appear to have any sensation in her rear end. She was incontinent, and her bladder was full. The paralysis and lack of feeling meant she wasn’t emptying it on her own, which could have become life-threatening had she gone much longer without care.

[Fierce love for an incontinent cat]

The X-rays told a tale of unimaginable cruelty: Precious had been shot — more than once. There was a BB in her right leg and a larger bullet in her chest, which appeared to have fractured her spine (the cause of her paralysis) and one of her ribs. Surgery to remove either was too risky, and it wouldn’t have helped her anyway. The damage had been done, and Precious would need specialized care for the rest of her life.

To make sure Precious got that special care — for as long as she would need until a family falls in love and adopts her — shelter staff contacted Best Friends and arranged for Precious to move to the Sanctuary. Here, at Cat World, she’d receive expert care in an area specially designed for paralyzed and incontinent cats. She’d also have plenty of new friends to make.

Precious in boots

Treatments started at SBACC have continued at the Sanctuary. Precious purrs through acupuncture appointments and twice-weekly laser therapy (a deep-penetrating cold laser used to reduce inflammation and pain, as well as aid in healing). The hope is, with continued treatment, some amount of sensation and movement will return to her hind end.

“We do physical therapy every day,” says Christa Bruno, one of Precious’ caregivers. “Leg stretches, toe pinches, assisted stands — we do little bit of everything.” There is one deceptively silly-looking exercise, she explains, that involves a pair of tiny booties. Caregivers slip the boots over Precious’ hind paws. And, if you’ve ever seen a cat with something stuck to their foot, you know exactly what happens next: Her legs start shaking, and she kicks them off as quickly as she can.

[Paralyzed cat gets moving again]

It's simple and fast, but for Precious the movement is a good sign. It shows she can feel the boots on her paws, and she can purposefully move her legs to get the adorable (yet somewhat annoying) adornments off. She may need help going to the litter box, and she may scoot around using the strength of her front paws. But even little kitty kicks are a win in our book.

For Precious, the whole therapy experience is just another opportunity to soak up all the attention she can get. Extra little massages and head scratches are part of the package, and she’ll never get tired of her human friends cooing over her cuteness. The past is behind her, and Precious is all about enjoying the present.

Kitty on the move

Between exercise and therapy, Precious is busy being, well, precious. While she doesn’t climb or jump, she has no problem keeping up with the kittens in fast-paced games of tag and chase all throughout their home-between-homes at the Sanctuary. She goes wild for wand toys and beelines after balls as they roll across the floor. And when she’s exhausted from her escapades, Precious plops down with her closest feline friends for a post-playtime nap.

She’ll take any chance she gets to cuddle in the lap of a caregiver or volunteer, and she’s not shy with strangers. Everyone is a potential new pal. One of her favorite people-powered pastimes is visiting the great outdoors. “She loves a stroller ride,” Christa says. When her ride gets wheeled into the room, Precious perks up from wherever she’s at and rushes over at top speed. Watching the world roll past her and taking in all the smells and sounds of the canyon is just the best.

Whatever happened in the past, Precious’ sweet spirit hasn’t dampened for a second. From the moment she was picked up out of that alley, she’s embraced everything and everyone around her. And she has a lot more to look forward to from here on out.

This article was originally published in the July/August 2023 issue of Best Friends magazine. Want more good news? Become a member and get stories like this six times a year.

Precious the cat on the floor with Llama the kitten, with some people behind them playing with wand toys with the cats
Photo by Molly Wald

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