Update: Sadly, Ethel passed away in January 2019. We are heartbroken for her wonderful mom who gave Ethel a beautiful and happy life.
When Tara Kawczynski, the founder and president of The Odd Cat Sanctuary, learned that a four-week-old kitten with hydrocephalus was at risk of being euthanized at a local animal shelter, she rescued the adorable grey and white cat.
Shortly after the kitten was pulled from the shelter, she was placed with one of the Salem, Massachusetts rescue’s dedicated foster carers, Nicole Sauve. “I met her after she arrived [at the rescue],” remembers Nicole. “She was pawing through the carrier and meowing non-stop, something that is pretty consistent with her personality — she just wants constant attention!”
The kitten needed a name, so not long after meeting the cute special needs cat in mid-September 2018, Nicole christened her Ethel. “I’ve always loved the name Ethel but I seem to always end up with male cats at my house,” explains Nicole. “So when we saw her face and knew I was fostering her, Tara and I agreed we finally had our Ethel!”
Not long after Ethel was rescued from a Massachusetts animal shelter, The Odd Cat Sanctuary arranged for her to see a neurologist in order to better understand her medical issues. Prior to arriving at The Odd Cat Sanctuary, Ethel was diagnosed with hydrocephalus, a buildup of fluid in the brain that can cause an irregular gait, visual or aural impairment, hyper-excitability, and even seizures.
“The doctor started her on medication to help with the fluid buildup in her brain,” says Nicole. “They also recommended medication to treat a potentially infectious cause of the illness in the chance it is not congenital, so she receives this daily as well.”
Because Ethel is too young to have an MRI, no one knows for sure if she was born with hydrocephalus or acquired it at some point in her young life. However, everyone at The Odd Cat Sanctuary — especially her foster mom Nicole — is doing their best to give this cute special needs cat the medical care she needs to thrive.
“Likely related to the hydrocephalus, she is also blind,” explains Nicole. “Poor Ethel has had a few other complications — an upper respiratory infection, prolapse, and a collagen issue with her skin– though we are treating everything as it comes and she has been quite the little fighter through it all.”
While Ethel hates taking medication twice a day for her health issues, she’s an otherwise happy and active young cat who absolutely adores playing with feathers and her foster mom’s hair, chasing after crinkle balls, and of course, eating. Ethel also enjoys spending time with the other cats Nicole fosters for The Odd Cat Sanctuary, but there’s nothing this tiny kitty loves more than being held.
In fact, Ethel likes cuddling with her foster mom so much, she will meow repeatedly until Nicole gives her the attention she demands, proving special needs cats are — for the most part — the same as average felines. “Ethel is a happy and spunky girl with a huge personality,” says Nicole. “She has no idea she’s different than other cats!”
Having cared for a number of special needs kitties for The Odd Cat Sanctuary, Nicole hopes more people will consider becoming foster parents for their local rescues because helping these animals in need really does save lives.
“I’ve met and fostered the most special cats through Odd Cat — many who would have otherwise died if the rescue didn’t have room for them — and just wish others out there would also open up their homes to special needs cats too,” says Nicole. “We are always looking for more fosters!”
While Nicole knows special needs cats like Ethel often have difficulty finding homes, or even people who are willing to foster them, she’s certain animals with medical issues are capable of having amazing lives. “Medical diagnoses aren’t a death sentence!” says Nicole. “And all animals, especially special needs ones, deserve a chance at a happy life!”
Thanks to everyone at The Odd Cat Sanctuary, particularly Nicole, Ethel has a very happy life, and it’s impossible not to think about what might have become of this tiny girl if the Massachusetts rescue hadn’t stepped in.
Fortunately, Ethel, the little blind kitten with hydrocephalus who loves to be held, is — quite literally — in excellent hands, and there’s no doubt she’ll receive the care and affection she needs from her devoted foster mom.
“I love every Odd Cat I’ve ever fostered, but some cats — especially those that require such a time commitment — just take over such a special place in my heart,” says Nicole. “We at Odd Cat just want the world for Ethel and hope so much she’s one of the lucky ones who gets to live a long and healthy life, even with her medical complications. She means a lot to me.”
To learn more about this adorable kitten, you can follow Ethel on Instagram.
If you’re interested in adopting Ethel, please contact The Odd Cat Sanctuary.