This post includes photos some people may find upsetting.
When Heather Sunderland, founder and president of Under One Sky Animal Rescue (UOSAR), was contacted by Avarie from Stray Cat Alliance (SCA), another rescue in Los Angeles, about fostering Sebastian, a 9-week-old kitten who’d been hit by a car, she couldn’t refuse.
After all, UOSAR is dedicated to helping special needs cat who often have difficulty finding homes, making Heather the perfect person to care for the adorable ginger kitten who was in danger of being euthanized after suffering multiple hip and leg fractures while living on the streets. “He could shakily walk somewhat but was 100% urine and fecal incontinent,” explains Heather. “Avarie asked me because she knows I have a lot of experience with expressing bladders and extracting feces.”
With an upcoming trip to Europe planned, Heather agreed to foster Sebastian until she left for her vacation, but when she came face to face with the injured feline in June 2019, she quickly had a change of heart. “After I saw the state of him, I knew I would be his advocate and caregiver while he began his long journey of healing,” remembers Heather. “He just looked out at me through the cat carrier, a little broken kitty trembling with fear, and I knew instantly that it was my mission to help him heal and thrive.”
Shortly after she brought Sebastian home, Heather left for Europe, hiring veterinary techs to look after UOSAR’s many special needs cats in her absence. After spending eight days abroad, Heather returned, and it immediately became apparent that Sebastian’s tail, which was also injured when he was hit by a car, was exacerbating his bladder and bowel issues.
“Thanks to SCA I was able to take him for a consult with an orthopedic specialist who, after two visits, agreed that removing the tail was best thing for Sebastian,” explains Heather. “It was likely contributing to his urine and fecal incontinence due to the dead weight of the tail pulling the nerves that connect to the bowel and bladder, making it impossible for him to control.”
Amputating Sebastian’s tail, along with several acupuncture sessions courtesy of Stray Cat Alliance, eventually enabled this adorable boy to regain very minimal control over his bladder.
Today — more than three months after he came to live with Heather at Under One Sky Animal Rescue — Sebastian is able to control his bowels the majority of the time. “He can defecate on his own about 80% of the time as long as I give him a nudge by putting him in the litter box,” says Heather.
However, it took a long time for Sebastian to get to this point, and he and Heather had lots of challenges along the way, including anal prolapse, a serious condition that occurs when part of the large intestine slips outside the anus.
“I had to be so gentle when removing feces or he would prolapse and that is terrifying, shocking, and bloody to behold!” says Heather. “And if he strained too much it would just happen!” While cats often need to have surgery to correct this condition, Sebastian did not, and it’s been more than a month since he’s had an anal prolapse.
Sebastian also has a very sensitive digestive system, making him prone to diarrhea, and Heather spent months trying to find a food that wouldn’t upset his stomach. “I spent many sleepless nights cleaning the diarrhea from his fur and the floor,” says Heather. “Thank God for pumpkin! He actually loves it and it helps keep his stool firm so he can feel it and be able to defecate on his own.”
However, Heather still has to express Sebastian’s bladder multiple times a day, but she’s confident it doesn’t prevent this happy and energetic boy from enjoying an excellent quality of life. “He is very active, running and playing all day with Jett the tripod kitty in their custom built outdoor enclosure where they are safe from predators and enjoy the grass and sunshine,” says Heather.
In fact, she’s so certain special needs cats are capable of having great lives, Heather routinely teaches people how to take care of incontinent kitties through UOSAR’s YouTube channel and even over FaceTime. “Animals can live long and happy lives with a disability, just like their human counterparts,” explains Heather. “They just need love, patience, and understanding.” Fortunately for Sebastian, who undoubtedly endured an incredibly difficult life on the streets before he came to Under One Sky Animal Rescue, he’s found a home where he is given everything he needs to thrive.
However, if he ever regains full control of his bladder and bowels, Stray Cat Alliance will put up him for adoption, a day that will be understandably bittersweet for Heather. “It will be very hard to let go when and if that day comes because he is such a sweet and loving kitty and I am very attached to him already,” says Heather, but she also knows that finding a home for Sebastian will enable her to use her unique skill set to help even more special needs cats. “If he never regains proper function of his body and needs help, he will always have a loving home with me and the rest of the special needs gang here at UOSAR.”
To learn more about this handsome kitten, you can follow Sebastian on Instagram.