Dawn had cared for more than 15 kittens her husband had brought home from his job at a New Jersey port — bathing them, treating them for eye infections, and eventually getting them adopted — when he returned from work one day in March 2018 with Rocky, a very unique young cat.
Rocky was just five days old when his mother, trying to move him from one location to another, accidentally let go of him while she was at the top of a 20 foot piece of machinery. “She dropped him and left him,” explains Dawn. “He had grease caked on him when we got him.”
Not only was the malnourished kitten covered with dirt and grime, he was unable to walk, having suffered serious trauma when he hit the ground after falling 20 feet. “He has a mid-spine injury which left him with nerve damage,” says Dawn.
While neither she nor her husband had ever cared for a cat with paralysis before, Dawn felt compelled to help the injured kitten, naming him Rocky after the fictional boxer who was played by Sylvester Stallone. “When I got Rocky and realized he had a disability, there wasn’t a question to keep him and take on that job as his mom,” says Dawn, “He’s a fighter! And he fought so hard to stay alive; he was barely breathing when I got him.”
In addition to being unable to walk and extremely unwell, Rocky — who was just five days old when he was rescued — couldn’t eat on his own, so Dawn fed him through a syringe, nursing him back to health one drop of kitten formula at a time. With Dawn’s help, he gained weight, growing from a tiny malnourished kitten into a healthy young cat, and five months later, Rocky is doing incredibly well.
While this adorable tabby and white boy is now perfectly capable of eating on his own, his mom makes sure to feed him only the best food because a nutritious diet is particularly important for paralyzed kitties. “Special needs cats like Rocky can go from being healthy one minute to being backed up with poo and that can be fatal,” explains Dawn, “so making sure he has a good diet of high quality food to keep his poo soft and flowing — along with making sure to have him on a poo schedule — is huge!”
Rocky — who is incontinent — wears a diaper, but in order to stop him from getting urinary tract infections, Dawn does her best to make sure he doesn’t have bowel movements in his diaper. She’s also meticulous about changing Rocky’s diapers every few hours, which is great for his well-being, but this rigorous routine can sometimes be a challenge. “I can’t miss a change, so I can’t leave him for more than a few hours,” says Dawn. “I cancelled my two vacations that were planned and will make all future vacation plans with Rocky with us!”
While a lot of people wouldn’t be willing to make these kinds of sacrifices, Dawn and her husband are more than happy to do everything they can to accommodate Rocky and give him the best life possible. “I am the lucky one to have him, not the other way around,” says Dawn.
Still, it’s impossible to ignore how fortunate Rocky was to find a home with Dawn and her husband after his mom accidentally dropped him when he was less than a week old, especially given the number of people who think paralyzed cats like him should be euthanized.
“I’m determined to show the world how wonderful of a life a special needs cat can have and that they are worth fighting for,” says Dawn. “People feel bad for them or sorry for them, but trust me when I say, Rocky knows no different and lives the most amazing life!”
After all, Rocky became paralyzed before he even learned to walk, but that has never stopped him from being an incredibly active and happy cat. “He loves laying on his back and sliding under the set of dining room chairs,” says Dawn, and Rocky absolutely adores playing with his toys. “He loves little felt balls and this little furry mouse — he goes crazy for them!”
Before meeting Rocky for the first time, Dawn had absolutely no experience with special needs cats, and she’d never even considered the possibility of adopting a kitty with incontinence or paralysis. In just a few months, Rocky has had a major impact on Dawn, and she has made it her mission to raise awareness about felines with special needs.
Not only does Dawn hope to inspire other people to adopt special needs kitties, she wants to stop cats like Rocky from being euthanized simply because they require a bit more care than the average feline. “They are so worth having and will change your life for the better,” says Dawn. “His quality of life is no different than a ‘normal cat’ except he can’t jump up on things.”
While other people might feel pity for special needs cats when they see them for the first time, Dawn hopes that by sharing Rocky’s story, they might eventually feel what she does when she looks at her special boy. “I seriously can look at him and cry because the love I have for him is overwhelming,” says Dawn. “He means the world to me!”
To learn more about this adorable kitten, you can follow Rocky on Instagram.