In June 2016, Mareen Ebelt’s friend told her about a stray cat who had recently given birth to a litter of kittens near her home in Berlin, Germany, and one of the tiny kittens appeared to have been born without hind legs. Mareen was extremely concerned for the cats, particularly the special needs kitten, so she and her boyfriend went to check on the feline family and immediately fell in love with the two-legged tabby and white kitten. “We wanted to give him a chance,” says Mareen, “not only to survive, but to get a home with a lot of love.”
After carefully considering whether or not they were up to the challenge of taking care of a special needs cat, Mareen and her boyfriend determined they had the time and the money required to rescue the two-legged kitten.”We then decided to give him a home with our two other cats,” says Mareen. However, instead of separating the kitten from his family, Mareen and her boyfriend decided to regularly visit him, his mom, and his siblings, bringing them food and getting the two-legged cat accustomed to their voices. “We waited a long time for him to learn enough from his mom,” explains Mareen, “and then caught him luckily on the second try.”
Shortly after bringing the special needs kitten home, Mareen named him Rocket after she saw how quickly he was able to move around the house, using his front legs to propel himself. “He loves running around, playing, and pushing himself to the limit,” says Mareen. “He is just so wild and full of energy that he never wants to quit playing.”
Mareen took Rocket to her vet for an examination, and an x-ray revealed he had been born without hind legs and had tiny hip bones, a congenital condition the veterinarian said may have been the result of inbreeding between two feral cats. In order to stop Rocket’s mother and siblings from breeding, Mareen got them spayed and neutered, doing her part to decrease pet overpopulation in Berlin.
While Rocket had no trouble getting around Mareen’s home, his unique body type made it difficult for him to use the litter box. However, his mom accepted this challenge, trying multiple types of litter boxes and placing Rocket in them when he urinated elsewhere in the house. Over the time, this spunky two-legged cat began using the bathroom like a pro, thanks largely to Mareen’s patience and determination. “Today he is using [the litter box] like every other cat,” says Mareen.
Aside from having some trouble using the litter box, Rocket isn’t all that different from his four-legged friends. “He loves food,” explains Mareen, “so I’m pretty sure his favourite activity is eating and begging for food.” Rocket also enjoys racing around the house, and he can climb and even jump, which Mareen says surprises a lot of people. “They just don’t think that he is strong enough to balance himself,” says Mareen. “Two-legged cats are underestimated.”
Rocket is also extremely affectionate, and he loves cuddling with his mom, especially at night after he’s spent the whole day tearing around the house with Mareen’s two other cats, Flint and Gürkchen. Before deciding to rescue Rocket, Mareen assumed he would need more medical attention than the average cat, something she took into consider when debating whether or not to adopt him. Thankfully, Rocket is a happy, healthy, and strong boy who doesn’t need to go to the vet anymore often than Flint and Gürkchen.
However, having had Rocket for than a year, Mareen has been surprised by some of the comments people have made about her beloved cat and other felines like him. “I’ve heard and read that some people call Rocket and other two-legged cats ugly, which I just don’t get,” says Mareen. “It breaks my heart to hear or read that.”
While these comments are understandably upsetting to Mareen, thankfully Rocket has no idea that some strangers might not see how incredibly adorable, sweet, determined, and fun he and other two-legged cats are. “They are just normal cats,” says Mareen. “They do not know that they are different.” However, Rocket is indeed different, largely because he serves as an inspiration to his family and everyone who is lucky enough to meet him in person or through social media. “Not only do [two-legged cats] make you appreciate life,” explains Mareen, “but they also are so full of love and gratefulness.”
Rescuing Rocket has been a life-changing experience for both Mareen and her beloved special needs cat, and it has inspired Mareen to donate more frequently to animal welfare organizations, including her local shelter, Tierschutzverein Berlin, and The Cat House on the Kings, a rescue in California. She’s also a talented artist who has created designs which she screen-prints by hand onto shirts and bags and sells on Etsy — every time someone buys an item that features Rocket, Mareen donates the profits to her favorite animal charities.
While Mareen loves all three of her cats equally, she definitely has a unique connection with Rocket, the adorable two-legged kitty who is proof that it’s possible to triumph over adversity. “I wish more people would know how incredible special needs animals are,” says Mareen. “Rocket means the world to me.”
To learn more about this incredible cat, you can follow Rocket on Instagram.