Love for cats with special needs runs in the family

Clark the cat lying on a bed and looking out of a window
When Jill visited the Sanctuary, she wasn’t planning to bring home a new cat whose back legs don’t work — but then there was Clark.
By Sarah Thornton

For many potential adopters, a cat paralyzed in his hind end and needing help going to the bathroom sounds, understandably, like a daunting amount of responsibility. But to Jill and Laurel Brothers, it’s just part of taking care of their much-loved cats.

The mother and daughter previously raised and loved a very special cat named Leo, who had paralyzed back legs and needed to be expressed (get help emptying his bladder). Even after they had said a final, sad farewell, he never left their hearts. So, when Laurel spotted a cat with the same special medical needs at Best Friends, she knew she could give him a wonderful home. She flew from Ohio to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in southern Utah, adopted Cory and ever since has spent every day making him the happiest cat around.

Laurel also made a promise to bring Cory back to the Sanctuary for a visit with the people who cared for him at his home-between-homes. But when she did, she also brought along her mom, Jill, and although they didn’t know it at first, they’d soon be returning to Ohio with an extra set of paws in tow.


A post shared by Cory (@coolcatcory)

Can’t slow this kitten down

Just a week after Cory was adopted, Clark arrived at the Sanctuary from Seal Beach Animal Care Center, a Best Friends Network Partner organization. At around five months old, he was full of kitten energy and absolutely nothing could slow him down. It didn’t matter that he couldn’t move his back legs. He climbed the tallest cat trees and chased down his favorite toys as fast as lightning.


A post shared by Cory (@coolcatcory)

Staying in an area of the Sanctuary set up for cats with incontinence, Clark loved his playtime, which was interrupted only by naps, meals and daily physical therapy. For a few minutes a day, caregivers massaged Clark’s back feet for circulation in the muscles and to encourage the building and strengthening of neural pathways.

[Caring for an Incontinent Cat]

Clark also enjoyed outdoor adventures: The catio was fine for day-to-day play, but nothing could beat a good walk on a harness and leash — anything to get out and smell all the smells of the canyon and maybe do some lizard watching.

He became popular with volunteers and caregivers. After all, it’s hard to resist a kitten with so much spunk and spirit. Even if he didn’t want to sit still for long snuggles, he never said no to a new friend waving around a wand toy.

So, when Laurel, Jill and Cory returned to the Sanctuary for their visit (and Jill was craving some kitten time), the staff knew exactly who she should meet. Jill, already jonesing for a kitten fix, says that as soon as they introduced her to Clark, she was ready to adopt. “I don’t know what came over me, but I was just like: ‘I’ll take him.’”

Mother and daughter then took Clark for a sleepover at Best Friends Roadhouse, and that was that. There was no hesitation. Clark was going to be part of their family.


A post shared by Cory (@coolcatcory)

Clark makes himself at home

Because Jill already had experience with both Leo and, to an extent, Cory (who lives nearby with Laurel), Clark’s special medical needs didn’t affect her decision to adopt any more than they slowed Clark down when it came to playing. The only special care either cat needs is manual help going to the bathroom by gently squeezing (or expressing) their bladders a few times a day. “It’s not a hard skill,” Jill says. “Not to downplay it, (but it’s only) hard is if you don’t know the cat.”

She spent time experimenting with what worked best for Clark — whether he preferred a towel under him, to be held or to be lying down. It eventually became a part of her daily routine.

[Cat with Manx syndrome gives the best hugs, gets a home]

He’s also proving himself to be a wonderful travel companion. He already loves adventure, and unlike many cats who get stressed out in the car, he just happily snoozes away. He’s polite in hotels and just happy to be with his person. And for shorter adventures, a stroller does wonders.

Clark’s been getting used to his new home and is quickly becoming top cat among his new feline family members, although he’s still not sure what to make of the dogs. He still charges to the top of the cat trees, and Jill is pretty sure he’s the fastest cat she’s ever seen (even on just two legs). Describing how Clark moves through the house, she says, “If you’ve ever seen a race car, they call it drifting when they go around a corner.”

There is only one way Clark is slowing down now: These days, he’s much happier to settle in for a nice long snuggle. He’s got his person and he’s enjoying every minute of it.


A post shared by Cory (@coolcatcory)

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