When Elise, a veterinarian, and her partner Clare learned about Appa, a kitten with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), through a support group for caretakers of animals with the rare disease, the couple thought they would be able to give the young cat the special care she needed.
After all, through caring for Porg, an adorable black and white kitten who passed away in May 2019 from complications related to EDS, Elise and Clare had gained a lot of experience that would be very beneficial to Appa, a three-month-old Selkirk Rex.
“Appa was being cared for by her breeder, who also joined the group after Appa was diagnosed with EDS when she had sustained a large unprovoked laceration to the back of her neck,” explains Elise.
Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, or feline cutaneous asthenia (FCA) as it is known when it affects cats, is a congenital connective tissue disorder that can cause animals and people to have a range of symptoms, including extremely fragile, elastic skin that is prone to tearing. Consequently, cats with EDS often have to wear clothing and collars to protect their delicate skin, and their nails must be trimmed regularly to help prevent them from injuring themselves.
“We ended up discussing Appa’s health and condition with her caretaker and it was brought up that we would be open to providing her with a loving, forever home,” says Elise. “Knowing we could provide her with the long-term medical care she would need — in addition to unconditional love — her caretaker accompanied Appa on her flight to Chicago and Clare picked her up at the airport.”
When Elise and Clare met Appa for the first time in late August 2019, they were smitten with the adorable brown and white kitten, and they were amazed by how quickly she became a part of their family.
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However, shortly after Appa arrived at her forever home, she was diagnosed with ringworm, as well as a heart murmur caused by mild pulmonic valvular stenosis, conditions that are not known to be related to Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. “This is a congenital narrowing of a heart valve,” explains Elisa. “When mild, it should not affect her life expectancy, but it will need to be monitored with regular echocardiogram.”
Thankfully, Appa’s ringworm — which is a common fungal disease that often affects young or immunocompromised cats — went away with the help of treatment, but in September 2019 she had to have surgery to repair a rectal prolapse caused by severe diarrhea.
A month later, this adorable girl is doing well, thanks in large part to a major change in her food. “Fortunately, all has been good with her rear end now,” say Elise, “but she is on a strict limited diet to ensure her gastrointestinal health is as stable as possible.”
Due to her Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Elise and Clare trim Appa’s nails regularly, and they thoroughly examine her each day for wounds. Also, to prevent injuries before they happen, they’ve made sure there aren’t any sharp surfaces in their home that might cut Appa’s skin, and they constantly supervise this fun-loving when she plays with other animals.
“At times Appa has needed a protective neck wrap to help keep her skin healthy and prevent her from scratching it,” says Elise, but because Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is so rare, some people have criticized her and Clare for putting clothing and collars on Appa. “They do not understand how fragile these cats skin can be, and these protective measures are medically necessary to allow healing or prevent further injury. It is not because it is cute or for attention.”
Without a doubt, Appa needs more care than the average feline, and Elise believes it’s important for people to make sure they have the time, money, and patience required to give animals like her the special care and attention she requires. “While caring for these special babies is rewarding, it is also a lot of work and takes a toll emotionally and financially,” says Elise. However, she’s still confident special needs cats can have happy and fulfilling lives, just like Appa, who adores playing, pouncing, eating, and having her belly rubbed.
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“Though the exact requirements of each special needs cats is uniquely different, they can have a great quality of life!” says Elise, and she hopes people will refrain from criticizing those who are simply trying to help their beloved pets thrive. “Even though their daily life may look different than an average cat, know that their humans are doing their best to give them the best quality and quantity of life.”
With Elise and Clare as her caregivers, there’s no doubt Appa, just like Porg, will have the best life possible, and while their beloved boy passed away far too soon, he inspired his parents to open their home to this very special girl. “Though he lost his battle to EDS, his story has made Clare and I feel connected to patients with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome,” says Elise.
Just two months after meeting Appa for the first time, Elise and Clare have a deep bond with this remarkable kitten, and they both feel incredibly fortunate to have her as a member of their family. “Appa instantaneously fit into our house and has given us so much love and purpose,” says Elisa. “She is a magical little kitten.”
To learn more about this cute kitten, you can follow Appa on Instagram.