When Katie Walker learned that Perth Rescue Angels, her local animal rescue, was looking for someone to foster a senior cat they had recently taken in as stray, she felt compelled to help the fluffy but malnourished and underweight tabby and white feline.
Shortly after she was rescued, the senior cat — who a vet determined was probably born in the summer of 2002 — had to have one of her legs amputated after a medical examination revealed she had a large cancerous tumor on a back paw.
The veterinarian also found that she had ingested some sort of a metal, possibly a fish hook, and they didn’t think she would have much longer to live. “I knew it would be really difficult,” says Katie “but I decided [she] should come home with me so that she wouldn’t spend her last hours or days alone.”
On July 10, 2017, Katie took the senior cat to live with her in her home in Perth, Australia, promptly dubbing her nameless three-legged foster kitty Birdie. “I grew up in a coastal town,” explains Katie, “and we always laughed that the seagulls would stand on one leg to make it look like they were missing one and needed that extra chip from your lunch.”
No one thought Birdie, who weighed just five pounds when she was rescued, would live more than a week, so Katie dedicated herself to making sure her final days were as happy and comfortable as possible. “She was very underweight from both her illness and having lived on the streets,” remembers Katie. “Her coat was dull, and she didn’t even make a sound at first.”
It didn’t take long for Katie to realize that in addition to the health issues she was aware of when she offered to foster Birdie, the senior cat was deaf and had dementia, making her more certain than ever that she had made the right decision to give the bedraggled tabby and a white beauty a warm and safe place to spend her final days.
“I wanted her to know she was loved and special,” explains Katie, “and that she really meant something to someone before she died.” However, instead of continuing to decline as Katie had fully expected, Birdie started to gain weight, she became more alert, and she began showcasing her sweet and loving personality.
However, it was when Birdie — who hadn’t made a peep since the day she was taken in by Perth Rescue Angels — finally broke her silence that Katie started to think maybe everyone had been wrong about the senior cat’s life expectancy. “I heard Birdie let out a tiny little happy meow a few days after she came home with me,” says Katie. “It reminded me that it is something all new rescue cats do; it’s the little happy meow they let you hear when they know they are safe.”
Birdie continued to thrive, and in the more than six months since she first joined Katie’s family, she’s doubled in weight and has adjusted to life as a tripod cat. Also, this once silent senior cat has become incredibly vocal, although Katie believes it’s a consequence of her dementia: “She will sit and meow at the top of her lungs if she feels lost or unsure.” Thankfully, Birdie has a safe and loving home with Katie — and several other animals — to comfort her, so she doesn’t have to cope with the uncertainty of dementia alone, unloved, and on the streets.
Like most cats, Birdie loves to sleep, and she enjoys cuddling up for a nap with her mom, Hunter — the resident dog — or one of the other kitties who live in her home, as well as hanging out in one of her many hiding places. “Hands down, her favorite thing is to sneak into my coat closet and have a sleep,” says Katie. “She spends most of her day there if I’m not home, I’m sure of it.”
However, because Birdie is deaf and has so many different places she likes to sleep, Katie often has to search for her beloved senior cat. “I sometimes have to hunt her down and find her new favorite hiding spot for a snooze,” says Katie.
When she isn’t sleeping or playing hide and go seek, Birdie enjoys playing with her toys, and this once severely underweight cat now has an excellent appetite. “Overall, Birdie is so low maintenance; all she really wants is a cuddle and her favourite biscuits,” says Katie.
While Birdie really isn’t all that different from a typical cat, her transformation has been remarkable, amazing everyone who has followed her journey. “People that know her story have admitted they were surprised she wasn’t just put to sleep,” Katie says. “They’re shocked and pleasantly surprised to see how well she is doing.”
Indeed, Birdie’s recovery has been incredible, prompting Katie to share her beloved kitty’s story with the world via social media. Katie, who has a number of other special needs cats, set up Instagram and Facebook accounts, choosing the user names “The Sweetest Meow” for both of them as an homage to the first little sound Birdie made when she realized she had a secure and loving home to spend the rest of her days. “Birdie really showed me how important all of these little moments are,” says Katie. “It’s been incredible to watch her become a happy and healthy cat.”
To learn more about this inspiring cat, you can follow Birdie on Instagram.