Thanks to babyproofing, this fragile cat doesn’t have to live in a bubble

Cat with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a genetic fragile skin condition, has a baby-proofed room, nail caps and collar to keep her from hurting herself.
By Christelle L. Del Prete

The colorful plastic caps over Bubbles’ nails aren’t meant to be a fashion statement — although the outgoing young cat probably doesn’t mind if she’s making one. The nail caps (sometimes pink, sometimes yellow, blue or green) keep her from damaging her skin by scratching. Meanwhile, the soft Elizabethan collar she sometimes wears around her neck protects her from overgrooming and possibly tearing her skin with her teeth. These accessories are the only visible clues to Bubbles’ rare skin condition.

Bubbles the cat wearing a protective cloth cone while jumping up to play, paws open and wearing pink nail caps

What is feline skin fragility syndrome?

Bubbles was born with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome or feline skin fragility syndrome. It’s a genetic condition where collagen does not form correctly, causing the skin to be more elastic and delicate than it should be and tear easily.

What this means for Bubbles is that she’s a lot more fragile than most cats. And, because there is no effective cure or treatment for the condition, the best “medicine” is taking extra precautions to keep her safe and prevent injuries in the first place.

While Bubbles’ condition might sound limiting, the happy, playful cat doesn’t have to spend her life in a bubble. With a few simple lifestyle changes and modifications to her room, Bubbles’ life isn’t too much different than that of other cats.

Anyone interacting with Bubbles must be sure to handle her extra gently. That’s because normal play (even an innocent wrestling match or game of chase) could end with a trip to the vet. So instead of wrestling with other young cats, Bubbles, who isn’t quite yet a year old, satisfies her kittenish desire to play in other ways.

Bubbles the cat in a blue protective cone lying on a brown and white carpet

Goofy cat makes her caregivers laugh

Two of Bubbles’ favorite things are people and soft cat toys. Incredibly loving and sweet, Bubbles will put her paws up on your chest and “kiss” your chin or roll around in your lap, begging to be petted.

During play sessions with her caregivers, she loves to pounce on toys, and she’s always up for a game, or 10 of them. Bubbles is also great at amusing herself and her antics never fail to make people laugh. She’s figured out a way to play hide-and-seek with her caregivers when they are cleaning or passing by just outside of her room: She’ll hide just below her window and pop up to surprise them. She also loves to roll around on one of the rugs in her room, batting her toys up in the air and catching them in her mouth.

“It’s hard not to smile around her because she’s so goofy,” says Rachael Slater, a Cat World caregiver.

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Brown tabby and white cat, Bubbles, wearing a blue protective cone and jumping up on a cat bedBaby-proofing a cat’s room

Thanks to some creative modifications to her space, Bubbles can show her goofy side safely. Her entire room has been baby-proofed, with all sharp corners and edges covered. And she has plenty of soft, fluffy blankets to curl up in and rubber-backed rugs for extra traction.

Bubbles will likely need to be the only cat in a (baby-proofed) future home of her own. But a little creativity goes a long way toward keeping this fragile, but fabulous cat happy, healthy and safe.

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Photos by Molly Wald