Michelle Bellican was scrolling through Instagram when a picture of Raven, an adorable black kitten with hind leg paralysis, grabbed her attention.
She clicked on the image, eager to learn more about the tiny special needs cat, and discovered that Raven had been surrendered to an animal shelter in Rome, Georgia, after suffering a serious injury when she was just a month old. “Raven was bitten by a dog when she was about four weeks old, and it completely severed her spinal cord,” explains Michelle.
Paralyzed, Raven was turned over to the local shelter when Marlena, an experienced cat foster mom from Atlanta, learned about the incredibly cute kitten through social media and decided to rescue her. “She contacted her Cherokee Humane Society manager and they coordinated a way to transport Raven to Marlena,” says Michelle.
While Marlena had fostered a lot of cats in the past — mainly pregnant mothers and their resulting kittens — she’d never cared for one with incontinence and paralysis, so she took Raven to an emergency vet to learn how to express the kitten’s bladder.
“That ER vet told Marlena that Raven was better off dead and suggested euthanizing her,” explains Michelle. “Marlena refused and said she just wanted to learn how to care for her, so they showed her and she took her home.”
With the help of her foster mom, Raven thrived, and so when Michelle saw her on Instagram for the first time, the little special needs kitten was doing incredibly well. “I immediately fell in love with her, and loved seeing pictures and videos of her on Marlena’s account,” remembers Michelle. “Once Raven was with Marlena, she was in excellent care and so loved.”
For weeks, Michelle watched Raven grow up, playing and cuddling with Granite, one of Marlena’s other foster kittens, content to admire her from afar until one fateful day in June 2018.
Michelle, who lives in Memphis, had been following lots of other foster cats on Instagram, but Raven was the first one who was even remotely close to her home, and she felt an undeniable connection to the tiny black kitten.
“I just felt so drawn to her,” says Michelle. “One day after work, I saw another precious post of Raven, and I decided I’d reach out to Marlena and ask some questions to see whether or not it was even realistic for me to think about adopting her.”
Marlena responded right away, and for several hours, she answered Michelle’s many questions about Raven, allowing her to determine if she would be able to handle the responsibility of caring for a cat with hind leg paralysis. “I decided that I really wanted to adopt Raven,” says Michelle. “I loved her so much and I just felt like I was meant to be her mama.”
That night, Michelle completed an adoption application and put down a deposit, guaranteeing that Raven would become a part of her family. It took about a month for the Cherokee Humane Society to arrange Raven’s transportation, but it didn’t stop Michelle from bonding with her during this time.
“Marlena would send me pictures and videos all throughout the day every day, and even FaceTimed me with Raven,” remembers Michelle. “She sent me videos of how to care for Raven; how to express her, put her diaper on.” When Raven finally arrived at her forever home on July 21, 2018, she was approximately two months old and every bit as wonderful as Michelle had imagined.
“The first time I met Raven, I was just so happy!” says Michelle. “I finally had my precious baby!” While Raven was smaller in person than she had appeared in pictures and videos, Michelle definitely wasn’t upset by this revelation. “I was glad that she was still a precious tiny kitten and that I didn’t miss out on that part of her life,” says Michelle.
Before adopting Raven, Michelle was extremely concerned about how her cat Cali would react to sharing her home with another kitty. Fortunately, it didn’t take long for Cali — who usually doesn’t like other cats — to accept her new little sister, making it much easier for Raven to adjust to her forever home. “I truly believe that she’s done so well because God sent Raven to us,” says Michelle, “and this is what was meant to be.”
Within the first couple of days, Michelle learned how to diaper Raven and express her bladder, as well as bathe the tiny kitten. However, she’s still figuring out how to give this little girl the best care possible, doing everything she can to guarantee Raven is as healthy and happy as she can be.
“Diaper kitties can have issues with their bowel movements, and can get impacted which can be very dangerous,” explains Michelle. “So I’m constantly worrying about whether she’s pooped recently and if it was enough.”
Consequently, Michelle is still learning how to stimulate Raven’s bowel movements and working on finding the best diet for her unique needs, neither of which she finds too challenging. In fact, contrary to what a lot of people might think, she’s found Raven easy to care for and not nearly as time-consuming as others might expect.
“Throughout an entire day, I probably only spend an hour caring for Raven with the diapers and the baths,” says Michelle. “I still lead a very normal life.” With Raven being just as active, happy, and full of life as any kitten her age, Michelle isn’t the only one leading a normal life. “She runs, she jumps — as much as she can from her belly — she climbs, she plays, she snuggles,” says Michelle, “everything any other cat normally does.”
Still, Michelle has encountered people who think Raven should be euthanized because they don’t understand how she can have a good quality of life. “Some people see Raven or other cats with paralysis and are so saddened,” says Michele. “I can understand that initial thought, but once you see how happy and feisty she is, there’s nothing to be sad about.”
After all, it’s obvious Raven is thoroughly enjoying her life, caring far less about her hind leg paralysis than everyone else seems to. “She loves food, cuddling, watching the bugs and birds and squirrels through the window, laying in sun puddles, climbing her cat towers, playing, sleeping, purring, and hunting sky raisins,” says Michelle. “Raven enjoys everything that all other cats enjoy!”
Without a doubt, Raven needs a bit more care than a typical cat, but her mom is confident that the happiness this little girl provides is totally worth any extra effort she requires. “Caring for a cat with special needs is so rewarding and gives me so much joy everyday,” says Michelle. “I’m so lucky to have Raven; she is such a precious gift from God.”
Raven, who was left at an animal shelter after she was bitten by a dog as a tiny kitten, has faced more than her fair share of challenges, but throughout all of these trials and tribulations, there has always been someone who — in spite of her physical limitations — has deemed her not only worthy of living, but also worthy of loving.
Thanks to her foster mom, Raven was saved from euthanasia and given a second chance, and with Marlena’s help, this incredibly special young cat found a fantastic forever home with a woman who is determined to do whatever it takes to make sure this special kitten knows that she is loved and valued.
“I’m so grateful that I get to have her and care for her and love her. Raven inspires me everyday,” says Michelle. “She has such will and determination — such spunk and liveliness — but also such a precious, sweet gentle spirit. She shows me that anything is possible, and that love will always prevail.”
To learn more about this adorable kitten, you can follow Raven on Instagram.