Heart (and legs) of a champion

Rio the cat takes great steps to overcome obstacles.
By Best Friends Animal Society
By David Dickson


Rio’s life didn’t exactly begin with a bouquet of roses and a bowl of warm milk. As a kitten, she was thrown aside like garbage. Rio’s rescuer found her literally beneath a dumpster. To make matters worse, somehow or other she wasn’t able to use her back legs. Rio was rushed to Best Friends, where vets couldn’t determine what was wrong with her legs. X-rays didn’t reveal any broken bones. There were no immediate signs of trauma.


In the end, physical therapy seemed to be Rio’s best bet for improvement. Caregivers began therapy by supporting her belly with their hands and helping her to walk around.


Almost immediately, physical therapy began making a difference. Within weeks, Rio was able to get around on those little fuzzy legs of hers without assistance.


Then and now



Rio loves to play.



The first few steps in physical therapy began eight months ago. And these days? Well, you should stop by and wave a toy in front of Rio if you want to find out exactly what this spunky girl can do. She can sprint full speed after toys, climb stairs, and chase after pretty much anything her adorable heart desires. She’s an inspiration.


All along, Rio has had a large group of caregivers, medical staff and volunteers rooting for her and attending to her every need. Still, in every situation like this, the animal needs to do his or her part. And Rio has fought from the get-go to get stronger. There’s no quit in this cat.


She still has a wobble in those back legs, to be clear, and it’s a wobble that may never fully go away. Even so, Rio doesn’t let a little swagger hold her back. Whether she sees a toy that needs to be pounced on or a warm lap in dire need of a cat, Rio goes after what she wants with gusto.


And, most of the time, what she wants is affection by the bucketful. "She just snuggles with people and with cats," says caregiver Beth Erdman. Rio is a lobby cat at Cat World Headquarters. As such, she gets plenty of opportunity to buddy up to visitors and volunteers, along with caregivers. "She has the perfect personality," says cat manager Michelle Warfle.


Bright days ahead



Rio's life is looking rosy from here on out.



Rio has come a long way since those early days as a kitten. Her physical therapy, however, remains much the same. One of the biggest strategies caregivers and visitors use to help Rio gain as much strength as possible is encouraging her to play. (A tough job, but, hey, somebody’s gotta do it.) She’s a sucker for wand toys, by the way.


Another way to keep her up and moving is going for walks. "She loves being outdoors," explains Don Ahlas, a volunteer from Iowa who has been spending time with Rio.


Caregivers believe it’s only a matter of time before some lucky person takes her home. Until then, she has the next best thing: a constant crowd of people to love. So no, Rio’s life didn’t start out in a bed of roses. But things are certainly looking rosy from here on out.


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