When Kayla Henderson learned that one of her friends was searching for a home for a tiny grey kitten who had been born with twisted hind legs, she felt compelled to help the young cat, having lost her beloved senior cat, Chunks, ten months earlier. Kayla’s friend — along with her family — had recently moved to a farm, and in the barn, they discovered a pair of very young kittens who had been abandoned by their mother.
Initially, the family tried to care for the brothers, who were born in early June 2017, but they had difficulty looking after the adorable grey tabby with unique hind legs. “They looked for a new home for him,” explains Kayla, “and when no one was willing to take him, we brought him into our house of ‘misfit animals.’ “
On July 6, 2017, the 4-week-old kitten came to live with Kayla and her family in their home in Keswick, Ontario, Canada, and after experimenting with a number of different names, they christened the tiny tabby Hector. While the Hendersons had experience with lots of different cats, including kitties with special needs, they’d never had one with Hector’s condition before. “He has contracted tendons in his hind legs, resulting in his paws being twisted upwards,” explains Kayla, “so he walks on his knees.”
The congenital condition happens in utero, and experts think contracted tendons occur when a kitten doesn’t have adequate room to grow while in their mother’s womb. “It can happen if there are too many kittens in the litter,” says Kayla, “or if the momma cat just isn’t big enough to develop her kittens.”
Kayla learned that some people had been able to move their kitten’s legs into a normal position through regular physical therapy, and she thought it might work for Hector, especially because he was so young when they adopted him. “We tried this with Hector when he was five to six weeks old,” remembers Kayla, “but he would scream every time.”
The Hendersons discontinued the physical therapy sessions, and they also ruled out surgery after learning it was extremely expensive and not necessarily guaranteed to work. “We opted to leave him in his perfectly imperfect state,” says Kayla. After all, Hector wasn’t in any pain, and he had no trouble getting around.
In fact, his twisted tendons only presented one major challenge, although it was a fairly significant one. As a kitten, Hector’s had difficulty using the litter box, mostly due to the length and position of his rear legs and paws. “Because his legs are so long and the paws face upwards, they basically covered his butt,” says Kayla, “so he’d pee and poop on his paws, and his knees would get covered as well.”
Consequently, the Hendersons kept wet wipes handy, and Hector got the occasional bath, but this issue was resolved over time as the little grey tabby grew bigger and learned to move his legs out of the way while going to the bathroom.
The Hendersons also discovered that Hector had some trouble going up and down the stairs in their home, so they decided to restrict him to the main level of their house. This solution worked quite well until the day Hector went missing. “We couldn’t find him,” says Kayla, “because he had managed to get up the stairs. He was sitting at the top, so proud of himself.”
That day, Hector was given free reign of the house, and several months later, he now entertains himself by racing up and down the stairs and jumping off the furniture. “When he jumps off things, he tucks his hind legs in and walks in a handstand to avoid clanking his knees on the floor,” says Kayla.
When Hector isn’t leaping off furniture or tearing up the stairs, he likes playing a fish game on his iPad, hanging out in his shark bed, chasing after his soccer ball, and sitting on his mom’s shoulder. Hector may be the smallest of Kayla’s four felines — “His nickname is Tiny Cat, which he’ll actually respond to,” says Kayla — but what he lacks in size, he definitely makes up for with his big personality. “Hector loves harassing his three siblings,” says Kayla, “cuddling up to them, touching their butts, and trying to chew on their tails.”
It’s been several months since the Hendersons decided to open their home to Hector, and they are so glad they made the decision to make this adorable special needs kitten a part of their family. “All of our animals have had something ‘different’ about them,” says Kayla, “and every time we bring them into our lives, it’s worth it.”
Still, the Hendersons have had to field a lot of questions from people who don’t understand why they would want to adopt a special needs pet, and Kayla has had more than one person ask her why she didn’t just opt to euthanize Hector. “It blew my mind,” says Kayla, “how many people just wouldn’t bother giving a special cat a chance.”
Thankfully, Hector found a family full of people who have dedicated themselves to giving this special needs kitten — who was abandoned by his mother when he was just a few weeks old — a whole lot more than just a chance. Kayla hopes that other people will consider adopting special needs cats, allowing them to experience the same joy she feels each time Hector overcomes a challenge for the first time.
“They’re a little more work in the beginning, but they learn to adapt to their disability so quickly,” says Kayla, “and every time they do something different or something as simple as taking a pee without getting it all over their feet, you’re so proud of them, and that alone makes everything else worth it.”
Hector, who hasn’t even celebrated his first birthday yet, is doing better than ever, and he’s come such a long way since the Hendersons adopted him in July 2017. While Kayla and her family have spent the past several months providing Hector with the love and care he needs to thrive, she believes this handsome little tabby cat has given them something invaluable in return.
“He came into our family ten months after the loss of our senior cat, Chunks,” says Kayla, “and having him yell at us, eat everyone’s food, and be the little cuddle monster he is, helped fix a hole in our family. He means everything to me.”
To learn more about this amazing kitten, you can follow Hector on Instagram.