When Heather Sunderland, founder and president of Under One Sky Animal Rescue in Los Angeles, learned about Beluga, a grey and white kitten with hind leg paralysis, through Avarie, the Director of Operations at Stray Cat Alliance, she was eager to help the young special needs cat. “She told me about Beluga who — at one month old — had been shot with a BB gun and was sitting at a veterinary clinic in Santa Monica for the last week,” remembers Heather.
At that point, Heather had very little information about Beluga, aside from that he was unable to use his back legs, so when she met him in person in early July 2018, she wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. “I went to pick him up and he was in bad shape!” says Heather. “He was soaking wet and covered in diarrhea and I was appalled at the state he was in.”
Heather discovered that Beluga was incontinent, making it impossible for him to control his bowel movements, but she was determined to help the kitten — who was approximately five weeks old — have a better of quality of life. Shortly after rescuing Beluga, Heather took him to the Holistic Veterinary Center in Calabasas, California, to learn more about the cause of his paralysis and incontinence, as well as what — if anything — could be done to help him.
“The Holistic Veterinary Clinic works only with paraplegics and other special needs animals to regain their mobility,” explains Heather, and the vet who examined Beluga concluded that he probably won’t be able to walk again. “The doctor there does not think the prognosis is very good for him regaining his legs, but because he’s so young, there’s a slim chance something might reconnect in his spine.”
The veterinarian also determined that not only had Beluga been shot with a BB gun when he was just a few weeks old, he had most likely been subjected to additional cruelty and abuse. “She believes that he was hit with an object and a victim of blunt force trauma besides the BB gun attack,” says Heather. “It was probably done by the same horrible human. I will never understand cruelty to animals. It breaks my heart.”
While Heather realized Beluga would probably never walk again, she was more determined than ever to do everything in her power to help, especially after learning that he had most likely suffered extensive abuse. Approximately one month ago, Heather started taking this adorable special needs kitten to the Holistic Veterinary Center for weekly acupuncture sessions, and she began doing physical therapy at home with Beluga, both of which seem to have had a huge impact on his health.
“When I first brought him home he was completely incontinent and pooping on himself,” says Heather, “but now he’s doing great! I express his bladder at least four times a day because he’s so small, but that will probably happen less as he gets older.”
Even though Beluga has regained control over his bowels, he’s not able to use a litter box, and Heather has seen no improvement in his hind legs, indicating he might remain paralyzed. While Heather is optimistic, she’s also completely prepared to care for Beluga no matter what the future holds. “I’m really hoping for a miracle!” says Heather. “But if it never happens, it’s OK because he has a forever home with me! I know how to take care of paraplegics — it’s no problem at all!”
Having cared for Sammy, another cat with hind leg paralysis, Heather knows that these special felines are capable of having extremely happy and active lives, no matter what other people might think. “I’m always showing people videos of my special needs cats so they can see what happy lives they lead,” says Heather. “At first they are always shocked, but then when they realize that the cats are not suffering, they seem relieved and surprised.”
It’s obvious that Beluga isn’t suffering in the slightest, and he absolutely loves his life with Heather and the other cats at Under One Sky Animal Rescue, especially Jett, an adorable three-legged kitty who was rescued around the same time as him. “They are inseparable and I’m so glad I got them together even though they’re different ages and not related,” explains Heather. “They have really learned to love each other.”
When he’s not wrestling with Jett, this adorable grey and white kitten loves playing with his toys and attempting to scale his tree cat scratcher. “He tries to climb it all the time!” says Heather. “He can already use all the ramps although he’s not really strong yet.” However, Heather is confident that just like Sammy, the other paralyzed cat at the rescue, Beluga will develop more upper body strength over time, making it easy for him to explore and play.
Still, Heather — like any conscientious cat caregiver — worries about Beluga’s long-term health, but she’s confident that she’ll be able to help him through any challenges he might face in the future. “I’m not sure how he will decide to carry his legs if they never regain mobility,” says Heather, “but I am certain he will adapt and be fine! Animals are so resilient!”
Without a doubt, Beluga is incredibly resilient, having learned to trust people again after being the victim of horrific abuse when he was just a four-week-old kitten, and while his life got off to a tragic start, his future is bright now that Heather is by his side. “Right now Beluga is doing great and he is so playful and happy,” says Heather. “Beluga is such a special little boy — he has stolen my heart.”
To learn more about this adorable kitten, you can follow Beluga on Instagram.
If you’re interested in adopting Beluga, please contact Under One Sky Animal Rescue.
You can also follow Under One Sky Animal Rescue on Instagram.