Fearless kitten meets life’s challenges head-on

Valentina the black and white kitten being held by gloved hands and you can see wounds on her face
With a difficult first two months behind her, Valentina shakes off adversity for a bright future and a home of her own.
By John Polis

Her name is derived from the Latin word “valens,” which means healthy or strong. But when a vulnerable, two-month-old little kitten named Valentina was found hurt and wandering alone near Salt Lake City, the thin, predominately white-with-black-splotches kitty looked anything but robust.

Valentina had open wounds and road rash on her tiny head and abdomen. After being taken to the West Valley Animal Shelter, she then came to Best Friends in Utah, where the first order of business was getting her stabilized and out of danger.

“She wasn’t in the best of shape,” says, Danielle Barnhart, senior manager of lifesaving programs, who admits she’s a goner for cats with special needs. “Once I saw her, I knew I had to help her. She was very skinny, her fur wasn’t taken care of, and there were the wounds.”

[Wobbly kitten gets by with help from his friends]

Medical staff treated the large wounds on Valentine’s head, abdomen and hip. “We suspect they were secondary to trauma, possibly due to a fall or being hit by a car,” says Best Friends veterinarian Dr. Megan McCarthy.

Caregivers also observed that Valentina couldn’t seem to walk in a straight line. “It was obvious she had some neurological issues,” says Dr. Megan. “She would bob and sway and walk in circles. It was difficult to determine if this was secondary to the trauma or something like a birth defect such as cerebellar hypoplasia (CH).”

Once Valentina’s wounds were taken care of and she was started on antibiotics, she went home to foster care with Danielle, who has a cat of her own with special needs named Waffle.

At home with Danielle, little Valentina began to settle into a more predictable, quiet daily routine. She stayed in a room with Waffle during the day as a precautionary measure to keep Valentina from accessing the entire house and perhaps hurting herself while Danielle was at work.

Valentina’s silent world

Danielle also noticed something else: “When I would go into the room where she was staying, she’d be sound asleep and didn’t react if I clapped my hands. But if you touched her, she would trill and act a bit startled.”

It was soon apparent that Valentina was deaf. So much had happened to the little cat in her first two months of life, a time when most eight-week-old kittens are in prime time for learning social skills and getting adopted. But here she was — faced with trauma, difficulty walking, medical procedures and now this.

Exploring with a friend

Incredibly, her health challenges didn’t bother Valentina in the least. She proved every bit as playful as any other kitten her age, Danielle says. She also showed herself every bit as strong as her name implies. And while she got along great with Waffle, being deaf  actually seemed to work in Valentina’s favor in that she didn’t get spooked by an occasional hiss from Danielle’s other cats.

When they could be supervised, Danielle let the two cats out together so that Valentina could explore the house and, of course, interact with a new friend. Valentina is quite fearless and nothing seems to get her down. She’s also quite adorable, says Danielle.

“Valentina is just the sweetest cat. She purrs as soon as she sees you. She likes to snuggle and get scritches. She’s also quite fearless, and whether or not that is partially due to her being deaf, I don't know. But she would always walk into a new space with such confidence.”

Importance of fostering

Dr. Megan says Valentina’s progress has much to do with foster care. “Foster homes are invaluable to caregivers,” she says. “It’s hard to get to know animals and observe them interacting with their surroundings when they are in a kennel. Foster homes help us continue to monitor and treat medical conditions, and they can even help discover new conditions.”

Valentina’s circling and head bobbing did not improve, but during a month she was in Danielle’s care, her condition did not worsen. “It’s not progressive,” says Dr. Megan. “Given Danielle’s observation in the foster home, we determined that Valentina did not have CH. Valentina will always be this way, but she is such a happy kitten with a fun personality and a great quality of life.”

[Joining forces to save a newborn kitten]

That confidence is surely serving Valentina well these days. Soon after she was spayed and made available for adoption, someone came by, fell in love and took her home. Once injured and alone, Valentina already has battled through a lifetime of medical issues in just two months of life.

Her future is bright — all because she got a second chance.

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