All kitties are special. But there are some who need a little more love and care in order to thrive.
“Lisa is back.” This is the sentence that Irene, the receptionist at Friends for Life, a no-kill animal rescue based in Houston, Texas repeatedly overhears on an otherwise regular day at work. Visibly curious, she walks up to see what all this hullabaloo is really about. Irene understands that there is a newcomer at the rescue and attempts to take a better look at her. However, it is only later that Irene learns that this kitty has found herself in this predicament before. Irene vividly recalls her first encounter with Lisa. She says Lisa was placed inside a kennel just across from her receptionist's desk in the lobby. Lisa was terrified and hiding beneath the blanket in the kennel. Up until this encounter with Lisa, Irene considered herself to be a “strictly dog person.” However, it was Lisa who nudged Irene into rethinking this identity. She thinks back on how she asked one of her co-workers to ‘show’ her how to pet a cat!
Saving Lisa and her family
A year earlier, when Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, Lisa and her family were discovered on the streets and brought to safety by the Friends for Life animal rescue organization. Lisa and her mom and siblings were very young and vulnerable cats back then. Thanks to Friends for Life, they were rescued just in time. Soon after, Lisa’s family members were reviewed and deemed fit for adoption. However, the rescue noticed something amiss with Lisa. Lisa was not moving her hind legs. Her hind legs dragged across the ground when she walked. Upon inspection, veterinarians prescribed physical therapy for Lisa. They bandaged her hind legs but little Lisa displayed little interest in walking. With a failed attempt at physiotherapy, Lisa’s veterinarians were forced to look for alternatives. They attempted to diagnose Lisa. Following strenuous efforts by a team of skilled veterinary professionals, Lisa was diagnosed with a condition referred to as ‘arthrogryposis’, a rare congenital birth defect. This condition causes Lisa’s hind limbs to remain ‘stiff’ and ‘set in one position’ thus resulting in her disability- an inability to move her hind legs.
Back where she began
Lisa was in the care of a wonderful foster for the first year of her life. However, owing to unavoidable circumstances, Lisa’s foster surrendered her back at Friends for Life after a year. This is the reason why Irene’s coworkers exclaimed upon Lisa’s arrival. Irene slowly grew very fond of Lisa. Irene says that she used to swaddle Lisa using a towel and carry her to the meet and greet room so she could get some time outside the kennel and explore her surroundings. Lisa’s disability has resulted in her bowel and bladder incontinence. Irene says she and Lisa were inseparable at the rescue. She would swaddle and carry Lisa in her arms as she went about answering calls at the receptionist's desk. Each time Lisa was placed back inside her kennel, she would protest and demand for more playtime. Irene says Lisa would meow incessantly to catch her attention. Irene tells us about Lisa’s special dance move. Lisa would reportedly climb the bars of the kennel and slide down with one of her hind legs sticking out the door. Irene is reminded of a popular pole dancing move whenever she catches Lisa doing this. In addition, Lisa’s Instagram followers often jokingly refer to this as her ‘stripper leg’.
A lovely friendship grows
Following careful thought and consideration, Irene decided to foster Lisa. Irene explains that she was just getting out of an abusive relationship and began fostering Lisa once she purchased her own apartment. Irene feared for Lisa’s safety when she was at work or when she was fast asleep. Therefore, Irene brought home a large kennel where she could safely lock Lisa when she wasn’t around to watch her. Irene says Lisa would make a lot of noise whenever she was locked inside the kennel. The noise was ear-splitting so much so that Irene’s downstairs neighbor would deliberately strike her floor to startle Lisa into being quiet. To prolong Lisa’s time out of the kennel, Irene began using diapers for her. Irene determined the correct-sized diapers for Lisa through trial and error. Once Lisa started comfortably wearing her diapers, she was allowed to sleep next to Irene on her bed at night. Irene says Lisa loves to snuggle next to her pillow as she sleeps at night.
Irene continued fostering Lisa and they became the best of friends. It was at this point that Lisa received an application from a potential adopter. Irene felt heartbroken and was unable to let her go. She particularly recalls one morning when she sobbed uncontrollably as she drove herself to work. Her co-workers had to pacify and help her relax. It was this breakdown that helped Irene realize that she needed Lisa as much as Lisa needed her. Irene decided to take the leap. In 2018, Irene officially adopted Lisa.
Irene says she has had the honor of being Lisa's mom since 2018. She started a page for Lisa on Instagram called lisathespecialkitty to show the world just how special Lisa is not just in terms of her disability. Through Lisa’s story, Irene aims to remove the misconceptions surrounding the life of a disabled cat and their caretaker. Certainly, Lisa is a very special kitty and proves that disabled cats can thrive too.