When Shanta Siegler was contacted by the director of Furever Home Kitty Rescue about Anushka, a tabby kitten with hind leg paralysis who had been rescued from the streets of Mexico in June 2017 when she was just a few weeks old, she was immediately interested in helping the young special needs cat.
“JoMarie, the director of the rescue, knew in her heart that Anushka was meant to be mine and did all she could to make it happen,” says Shanta. Just two years earlier in March 2015, Shanta and her husband Scott rescued Teagan, a two-week-old kitten with perosmus elumbis, a congenital condition that caused her to be born with only half a spine.
“Teagan is the only documented case of a cat having been born alive with perosomus elumbis,” explains Shanta, and she and her family dedicated themselves to giving this incredibly special girl the best life possible. Sadly, when Teagan was just 17 weeks old, she passed away on July 2, 2015, leaving the Sieglers absolutely devastated. “I honestly thought I was going to die without her,” remembers Shanta.
While Teagan’s passing left Shanta heartbroken, the young cat had such a huge impact on the people who had the honor of knowing her during her tragically short life, this adorable kitten inspired the Sieglers to become advocates for special needs animals.
“My time with her has changed me forever,” says Shanta, “and I can no longer sit quietly by while cats like Teagan are basically born to die.” Instead of allowing her grief to destroy her, Shanta used the pain as motivation to adopt and foster cats in need, including felines with mobility issues like hind leg paralysis.
When JoMarie, the director of Furever Home Kitty Rescue in Southern California, learned about Anushka, she instantly thought the paralyzed and incontinent kitten would fit right in with the Sieglers and their many special needs cats. Not surprisingly, Shanta was interested in helping the young paralyzed cat, and the more she learned about Anushka — who was born on the streets of Mexico in April 2017 — the more determined she was to give the tiny tabby kitten a safe and loving foster home.
“Anushka somehow suffered a crushing blow to her lower back,” explains Shanta. “This left her paralyzed from the ‘waist’ down.” The person who had been feeding Anushka realized that the young cat had been injured, so she turned to Facebook in hopes of getting help for the paralyzed kitten.
“A young lady named Evy answered that call and as quickly as she could, she got to the location where Anushka had last been spotted,” says Shanta. “She searched and searched for her and finally a tiny little kitten came out dragging herself from under a car.” Evy immediately took Anushka to a vet who diagnosed the young cat with a spinal injury and recommended specialized care that wasn’t available in Mexico.
Determined to get Anushka the medical attention she deserved, Evy began contacting rescues in the United States, eventually getting in touch with JoMarie from Furever Home Kitty Rescue who in turn reached out to Shanta about fostering the paralyzed kitten. “Once we agreed to take her, Evy made the long trip from Mexico with Anushka and met us in San Diego, California,” says Shanta.
Having agreed to foster Anushka before ever meeting her in person, Shanta and her husband were pleased to find that she had an incredibly loving and sweet personality, and after seeing how quickly she was accepted by their other cats, they decided to give the little tabby a forever home. “Anushka is such a talkative and friendly little thing,” says Shanta, and because the Sieglers had plenty of experience caring for incontinent cats with mobility issues, they quickly settled into a routine with the tiny kitten. “I clean our cats’ litter boxes twice a day, so making the transition to changing Anushka’s diaper — which takes less than five minutes — was super simple for me,” says Shanta.
While the Sieglers realize that not everyone is up for the challenge of taking care of an incontinent cat — “It’s literally like having a 1 1/2 year old for possibly 20 years,” says Shanta — the couple has found that aside from diaper changes and baths, Anushka and paralyzed kitties like her really aren’t all that different from typical felines. “Anushka can physically do just about everything a ‘normal’ cat can do,” explains Shanta, “just in her own creative way.”
Like the average cat, Anushka loves food, and she’s definitely not shy about meowing at her mom when she wants something to eat. She’s also very playful, she likes making biscuits, and she can’t resist a good cardboard box. Even though she can’t walk like a typical kitty, Anushka has no trouble scooting to pretty much anywhere she wants to go. “Her determination, perseverance, and loving attitude make her a wonderful companion,” says Shanta.
However, incontinent cats are more prone to certain health issues, including constipation and urinary tract infections, so the Sieglers keep Anushka on a fairly strict routine that allows them to give her the close attention she needs to be as healthy as possible.
“Monitoring what goes in and what’s coming out are paramount to their health and well-being,” says Shanta. “Simply making feeding time and pottying time priorities makes catching any digestive or health issues that could potentially arise much easier and quicker to resolve.”
Shanta knows that not everyone is willing to adhere to the sort of schedule a special needs cat like Anushka requires, but she’s confident that the people who are will be rewarded and transformed in ways they can’t imagine. “Caring for a cat that depends on and loves you unconditionally changes you,” says Shanta. “I, for one, am a better person for loving and caring for our special needs cats.”
Anushka, who was born on the streets of Mexico in April 2017, will celebrate her first birthday in just a few weeks. Just as she and special needs cats like her have transformed Shanta and her husband Scott, Anushka’s life has dramatically changed thanks to all of the people who — instead of ignoring her plight or pronouncing her hopeless — stepped up to help her.
“Far too many [special needs cats], are never given the opportunity to live and be loved because they are deemed unadoptable and unworthy of life,” says Shanta.
Thankfully, Anushka found the perfect home with a family that has managed to turn the tragic loss of their beloved kitten Teagan into a mission to help animals in need and raise awareness about special needs cats, particularly felines with mobility issues like this adorable girl.
While many people would be reluctant to take on the responsibility of caring for an incontinent cat like Anushka, it’s a role that Shanta — who is raising her children to be kind and compassionate cat lovers — relishes. “Anushka means love and sacrifice to me,” says Shanta. “I love Anushka with that fierce momma bear kind of love.”
To learn more about this adorable cat, you can follow Anushka on Instagram.