When a feral cat gave birth to a litter of kittens near Renea’s mother’s home in Knoxville, Tennessee, she and her grandfather were eager to help the young felines and their mother. “My grandfather and I would watch the kittens for weeks outside but kept our distance because every time we went to try to catch the kittens, the momma would move the litter,” explains Renea. After about a month, the mother cat put her babies in a shed on the family’s property, allowing Renea to handle them for the first time in the summer of 2017.
Renea realized the kittens were Manx cats, a breed of domestic felines known for being tailless or having extremely short tails, and one them — a ginger female — had a unique facial structure caused by a chromosomal abnormality. “As soon as I picked her up I knew there was no way I could give her away!” remembers Renea. “I wanted to care for this spectacular creature!”
Determined to keep the tiny orange cat, Renea named her Butternut, adopting her in August 2017 when she was just a few weeks old.
Not long after deciding to keep Butternut, or Butters for short, Renea noticed the young feline appeared to have some health issues, and she was eventually diagnosed with Manx syndrome. “Manx Syndrome is a genetic mutation that causes shortening of the tail and spine that can cause spina bifida and even partial paralysis to the back legs,” says Renea.
While Butters exhibited signs of partial paralysis, especially after jumping, and her unique facial structure — a product of her chromosomal abnormality — sometimes caused her mild breathing problems, she wasn’t in any pain, so Renea remained committed to caring for the young special needs cat.
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However, not everyone was convinced Butters would be able to have a happy and active life. “I had some many people telling me to put her down because she was so small and her quality of life wouldn’t be great,” says Renea.
Thankfully, Renea elected not to put Butters to sleep, and more than a year later, this adorable ginger girl is thriving. Like a typical cat, Butters loves to eat, she adores cuddling with her mom, and she enjoys playing with her catnip mice. “She also loves being feisty with her other cat siblings,” says Renea. “She’s always into something!”
While people often expect a cat with Manx syndrome and a chromosomal abnormality to be more work than the average feline, Renea has found Butters relatively easy to care for. “I think the biggest misconception with cats that have chromosomal abnormalities and Manx syndrome is that their lives aren’t as valuable as a ‘normal’ cat’s,” explains Renea. “Or that they may seem like a burden — which is so far from the truth!”
For Renea, Butters definitely isn’t a burden, although she has had some challenges caring for this special girl, particularly when it comes to her medical treatment. “I thinking the biggest challenge I’ve faced with having a spectacular creature like Butters is finding a vet I completely trust her life with,” says Renea. Fortunately, Renea was eventually able to find a veterinarian both she and Butters adore.
Having Manx syndrome and a chromosomal abnormality, Butters has had a few more health challenges than the average feline, but Renea is more than happy to provide her with the care she needs to have a happy and healthy life. “She’s worth more to me than any amount of expenses,” says Renea.
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When Renea made the decision to adopt Butters, she didn’t realize she had special needs, but more than a year later, she’s so glad she decided to give this unique little cat a forever home. “Just because one may struggle to get around a little bit more than others — or look a little different — doesn’t mean their life isn’t a precious gift!” says Renea.
As a kitten, many people thought Butters should have been euthanized, convinced she would be unable to have a fulfilling life. Thankfully, Renea was adamant Butters deserved a chance, and a year and a half later, it’s obvious she was right.
Today, these two share an unbreakable bond, and it’s impossible to imagine Butters having a more devoted or loving mom. “Butters to me is really more than a cat; she’s honestly like my furbaby,” says Renea. “I put just as much time and love into her as I would my own child. She’s my little world!”
To learn more about this adorable cat, you can follow Butters on Instagram.