Lauren and her partner Danielle were helping a feline family as part of a TNR program — the practice of trapping, neutering, and releasing feral and homeless cats to humanely reduce overpopulation — when they met a tiny four-week-old kitten.
“He was too small to set off the trap, so he was just sitting in the trap meowing,” remembers Lauren. The kitten, who was born in the basement of an eye doctor’s office, had lived his entire life in the cold, damp room with his mother and five siblings.
However, after Lauren and Danielle trapped the young cat in July 2019, they brought him — and his mother and litter mates — back to their home in Wilmington, Delaware, intending to care for him until he was old enough to be neutered. While the kitten seemed unable to use his back limbs, the couple initially attributed has lack of mobility to his young age, but it eventually became apparent he actually had hind leg paralysis.
“When we finally realized he couldn’t move his legs, we decided we would be the ones to give him the best life we could, for as long as we could,” says Lauren, and she and Danielle named the little special needs cat Fruit. “He was small and round like a baby fruit on a tree.”
Even though Lauren and Danielle were dedicated to helping Fruit have a great life, neither of them had any experience caring for a cat with paralysis and incontinence. Thankfully, it didn’t take them long to figure out what Fruit needed in order to thrive.
“We changed our lives based on Fruit, from schedule changes to be home to express his bladder and change his diaper, to figuring out how to give the best life to a special needs cat,” explains Lauren. They also fostered Fruit’s family for more than eight weeks, eventually finding homes for all of the kittens with the help of the Delaware SPCA, and spaying his mom and placing her in a feral cat colony.
Several months later, Fruit is doing great, although he doesn’t love having his diaper changed, nor does he enjoy when his moms have to bathe him. Fortunately, he’s still a very happy cat who loves eating, playing with toys and string, and of course, cuddling with his moms. “He is absolutely the happiest and most cared for cat in the world,” says Lauren. “He’s so spoiled and so happy.”
Sadly, not everyone believes Fruit has a great quality of life, simply because he’s paralyzed and incontinent. In fact, Lauren and her partner have visited several vets in an effort to determine the cause of Fruit’s paralysis and incontinence, and while none of them have been able to provide any answers, they all seem to think this fun-loving and active kitten is incapable of enjoying life. “The only problem he has faced is having every vet that has seen him want to put him down,” says Lauren.
However, it’s obvious Fruit isn’t suffering, and he’s definitely not in pain, and while he requires a bit more care than a typical cat, Lauren and Danielle are more than happy to tend to his needs. “We are so in love with him — he could need anything in the world and we would figure out a way to give it to him,” says Lauren.
By sharing Fruit’s story, Lauren hopes more people will realize special needs cats are capable of having full and happy lives, instead of automatically assuming animals with paralysis and incontinence are miserable. “They are loved, they are taken care of, and they’re not in pain,” explains Lauren. “They aren’t living a lesser life — they’re living their best life.”
Without a doubt, Fruit has a wonderful life thanks to Lauren and Danielle, and while they weren’t looking to adopt a kitten with special needs when they met him in a dank basement last summer, they’re so grateful to have him as a member of their family. “He means everything to us,” says Lauren. “He’s our child, our baby boy, and our favorite part of coming home.”