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Meet The Adorable Cat With Arthrogryposis Who Waited Two Years To Find The Perfect Forever Home!

When Irene was working as a receptionist at a Houston animal shelter, she met Lisa, a beautiful black and white cat who was born with arthrogryposis — a congenital condition characterized by decreased flexibility of the joints — in her hind legs.

Irene was intrigued by the young special needs feline, but she didn’t have a lot of experience with cats, so she had to ask a coworker how to pet Lisa. “She was in the kennel across the lobby from my desk,” remembers Irene. “That first day when I met Lisa she was hiding under her blanket terrified. I just felt so bad for Lisa because of how scared she was in that loud lobby.”

Irene discovered Lisa had recently been returned to the shelter after being in a foster home for the last year, having initially arrived at the facility in 2017 when she was just a kitten. “She was a Hurricane Harvey rescue intake along with her siblings and her mama,” explains Irene.

By the time Irene met Lisa in 2018, the tuxedo cat’s litter mates and mother had all found forever homes, and the staff at the shelter was worried she might never get adopted.

tuxedo cat with arthrogryposis
Image via @lisa.the.special.kitty on Instagram

Over time, Lisa adjusted to her new environment, allowing Irene and everyone else at the shelter to get to know her spunky personality. “I would watch as Lisa would excitedly wait and meow for a volunteer to bring her Fancy Feast,” remembers Irene. “She got very vocal and sassy if you didn’t feed her on time, or if you didn’t let her out of her kennel when she wanted.”

As the spirited paralyzed and incontinent cat came out of her shell, she formed a very special bond with Irene. In fact, Irene began taking Lisa out of her kennel, either to go for walks around the shelter, allowing her to safely explore the facility, or to cuddle with the young special needs cats while she fielded questions from callers and visitors. “She would make eye contact with me from across the lobby and meow until I took her out for her daily walk,” says Irene, adding, “It was very common to walk past the front desk and see me holding Lisa in a blanket while answering phone calls.”

While Irene wanted to foster Lisa, she was experiencing domestic violence and was afraid of putting the little special needs cat’s physical, psychological, and emotional well-being at risk. After all, a few years earlier she brought a stray kitten home and her partner immediately told her to get rid of the young feline. “I tried my hardest to find the kitten a home or no kill rescue to go to but because he was upset and I was scared of what he might do to the kitten, I decided it would be best to just take the kitten to the county shelter,” remembers Irene. “Waiting in that line to surrender this small kitten was heartbreaking. I was so upset and crying like I’ve never had before.”

Not wanting to risk subjecting Lisa to a similar fate, Irene — who was in the process of leaving her partner — decided to wait until she had moved into a new apartment before offering to foster the cute tuxedo cat. In 2019, Irene was finally able to bring Lisa home, a moment that not only symbolized her newfound freedom, but also the possibility of redemption for surrendering the kitten years earlier. “When I was able to foster Lisa it was like I was maybe redeeming myself, or at least trying to do my part in order to undo what harm I may have done in the past,” says Irene. “Bringing her home into my new place felt very empowering for me, because now at that point in my life I was able to make decisions for myself.”

Image via @lisa.the.special.kitty on Instagram

With the help of the wellness team at the shelter, Irene learned how to give Lisa the special care she needed to thrive, including regular bladder expression and diaper changes. Initially, Irene — who was concerned about Lisa possibly injuring herself while she slept — tried putting her in a large dog kennel overnight, an arrangement the outspoken feline refused to tolerate. “She would howl and wouldn’t stop until I would let her out,” remembers Irene.

Image via @lisa.the.special.kitty on Instagram

As time went on, the pair developed a routine that worked well for both of them, but as their bond was getting stronger and stronger, Lisa’s popularity due to exposure on social media and the local news meant more and more people were interested in adopting her. One day in early 2020, a potential adopter began asking Irene detailed questions about Lisa’s care, and she immediately knew he was serious about giving the special needs cat a forever home. “When I realized that Lisa could possibly be adopted by this fantastic person with a great adoption application I bawled my eyes out the entire way to my shift at the shelter,” remembers Irene. “My coworkers had to console me — it was so embarrassing!”

Image via @lisa.the.special.kitty on Instagram

The following day, Irene learned the man had decided not to adopt Lisa, and she knew she didn’t want to risk losing the adorable tuxedo cat. After a year of fostering Lisa, Irene adopted her in January 2020, and her followers on Instagram showered the special needs cat with gifts to commemorate the happy occasion. “Lisa received so many supplies that really helped me out when I was barely making enough to survive!” says Irene. “I’ve kept all the gift receipt notes to read whenever I need a smile for how Lisa has impacted other people.”

Image via @lisa.the.special.kitty on Instagram

Two years later, Irene’s financial situation has significantly improved, so while she no longer needs help caring for Lisa, she is eternally grateful for the generosity she received. Lisa is also in excellent health, thanks to a special diet to prevent loose stool and diapers and regular bladder expressions that keep her from developing urinary tract infections. “I’m not lying when I say I prefer helping Lisa potty because I can schedule it on my own terms!” says Irene. “And Lisa is so used to me helping her, she purrs while peeing! It’s a bonding experience!”

Contrary to popular belief, Lisa has pretty good control over her bladder and bowels, and while she may not be able to move like a typical cat, she has no trouble getting around. She can’t jump on countertops — which Irene believes is one of the perks of having a paralyzed cat — but Lisa is surprisingly fast and agile. “I know that a wheelchair would actually slow her down,” explains Irene, although it might make it a little easier for her to catch Lisa, who regularly removes her own diaper. “It’s quite a scene, me running after a disabled cat with her diaper falling off!”

When she’s not making mischief, Lisa loves eating, climbing her cat tree, sunbathing, and sitting by the window to watch the birds and squirrels outside. She also likes trying to play with Irene’s other pets, a dog and cat, although neither of them are sure what to make of her. “Lisa is a menace!” says Irene. “She’s the queen of the house and does what she wants — as she should!”

Image via @lisa.the.special.kitty on Instagram

While Lisa is often very mischievous, she’s also incredibly sweet, and she adores spending time with Irene. “She’s a mama’s girl and will sit next to me or climb up on the bed or couch to sleep next to me!” says Irene. “It’s very therapeutic to have her on my chest purring and looking at me adoringly with slow blinking!”

After everything they’ve been through over the past two years, Lisa and Irene have an incredibly special bond. Since meeting this remarkable girl, Irene not only left an abusive relationship, she has realized her goal of helping more animals in her community. “I can pursue my passions like fostering,” explains Irene, “and she is the reason why I trapped-neutered-returned my neighborhood cats and ultimately adopted one that kept coming around!”

Image via @lisa.the.special.kitty on Instagram

While Lisa’s life definitely improved the moment she met Irene, it’s impossible to measure all of the ways this remarkable cat has impacted her mom. For Irene, Lisa will always be a reminder of the moment she escaped domestic violence and finally became free. “I have two other pets and of course I love them, but Lisa has a part of my heart like no one else does,” says Irene, adding, “Lisa is my baby.”

Image via @lisa.the.special.kitty on Instagram

To learn more about this beautiful cat, you can follow Lisa on Instagram.

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