When Frida Castaneda saw a post on Instagram from @DapperDanTheDiapurrMan about Dottie, a paralyzed kitten who was in danger of being euthanized due to having special needs, she was eager to help the young black and white cat. “She had been brought in to Dallas Animal Services on Halloween day as a stray solo kitten at about five weeks of age,” remembers Frida.
Thankfully, a volunteer had already rescued the kitten, but they were only planning to look after her until a long-term fosterer, preferably with experience caring for a cat with paralysis and incontinence, came along. Frida was located in Ft. Worth, approximately 30 miles from Dallas, and she’d gotten a crash course in caring for paralyzed and incontinent cats after fostering and eventually adopting Lt. Dan, so she felt confident she would be able to meet Dottie’s unique needs.
“I reached out to our local rescue group, Good Neighbors Animal Rescue, and asked if they would be willing to take Dottie in as a GNAR kitten if I volunteered to foster her,” says Frida. “They happily agreed and we made plans to transfer Dottie from her foster home in Dallas to ours in Fort Worth.”
On December 17, 2020, Frida met Dottie for the first time, and she discovered the three-month-old kitten had already made tremendous progress with the help of her initial foster family.
“When Dottie first arrived at the shelter, she was so feisty they nicknamed her Little Hissy,” explains Frida. “By the time I picked her up from her initial fosterer in mid-December, she had begun to warm up to humans and was developing a very playful and confident personality.”
However, when Dottie arrived at Frida’s home, she was understandably wary of her new foster mom and brother, but it didn’t take long for the little special needs cat to settle in. “Dan, being the great teacher that he is, immediately took Dottie under his wing and helped her feel comfortable in her new surroundings,” remembers Frida.
It wasn’t long before Dottie completely adjusted to her foster home and family, with Frida putting her experience caring for Dan to good use. Not only did she have the knowledge and skills required to look after a young cat with paralysis and incontinence, Frida also had the time.
“Before COVID, I was working a part-time job in addition to my full-time job, so you can imagine how busy I was,” says Frida. “Once COVID hit, I lost my part-time job and my full-time job became 100% remote. This was a perfect opportunity for Dottie, since I was home so much I was able to focus on caring for her.”
Like Lt. Dan, Dottie was also born with a congenital spinal deformity, making her unable to walk like a typical cat or to urinate and defecate on her own. As a result, this adorable girl wears diapers and she has to have her bladder and bowels expressed multiple times a day, something Dottie hasn’t always made it easy for Frida to do.
“At first she was basically a little paper shredder and my hands paid a hefty price!” says Frida, but Dottie has become much more compliant over time, although she still doesn’t allow her foster mom to express her over the toilet like she does with Lt. Dan. “We are working on getting Dottie used to the same routine, but she is not very trusting of the toilet just yet.”
Consequently, Dottie is still in diapers right now, so she needs to have butt baths every day to keep her clean. Unfortunately — but not unexpectedly — this independent and strong-willed girl doesn’t enjoy her daily grooming routine, but Frida and her boyfriend Brent do their best to make it as pleasant as possible. “Usually, I will bathe or potty her while Brent pets her head and loves on her to help calm her down,” explains Frida. “We also wrap up each potty event with a treat so that Dottie feels rewarded for being patient with us.”
Altogether, Dottie’s baths and diaper changes take about 15 minutes each day, and this fun-loving kitten spends the rest of the time living the life of a typical cat. Not only does she adore food and is always first in line at meal times, Dottie likes to sleep and play, but her biggest obsession proves this special girl really isn’t all that different from the average feline. “Dottie’s absolute favorite activity in the world is playing in her box,” says Frida. “This specific box is about four weeks old now and we just cannot bring ourselves to throw it out because Dottie loves it so much. She and Dan treat it as a jungle gym of sorts.”
While Frida has found people often assume paralyzed and incontinent cats are incapable of having happy, active, and fulfilling lives, Lt. Dan and Dottie have proven this assumption to be completely false. “There are countless special needs cats living happy lives all around the world,” says Frida. “As along as we as animal advocates are willing to make the necessary accommodations these cats require, euthanasia does not have to be an option.”
However, Frida has discovered a lot of people think accommodating a paralyzed cat involves outfitting them with a wheelchair or a cart. While this might be a good option for some cats with paralysis, she doesn’t think it would suit Lt. Dan or Dottie.
“They zoom around like little race cars, chasing each other all around our home,” says Frida, and she hopes Dottie finds a family that includes a friend like Lt. Dan to keep her company. “She would do best in a home with other cats or dogs since she is a very social kitten and has gotten used to being around our three cats and foster dogs.”
Ideally, Frida would also like to see Dottie go to a home with multiple people who can help share the responsibility of caring for her, and it’s incredibly important for her to have time to adjust to her new environment.
With the right family, Frida is confident Dottie will continue to thrive, just like Lt. Dan has done with her. “Her can-do attitude reminds me so much of Dan when he was a kitten,” says Frida. “She has confirmed my belief that special needs cats are just as worthy of love and capable of full and happy lives. Dottie means so much to me, she is a lover and a fighter.”
If you want to learn more about this beautiful cat, you can follow on Instagram.
If you’re interested in adopting Dottie, you can contact Good Neighbors Animal Rescue.