Sandy was at her job as a vet tech at an emergency animal hospital near her home in New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada, when someone brought in a stray ginger cat who was desperately in need of medical attention. “He was so tiny and could barely move,” remembers Sandy. “He appeared to have infected wounds over his hind end, was dehydrated, had a folded over ear, and his mobility was off.”
Right away, Sandy was smitten with the malnourished and injured feline, and she and everyone at the vet’s office did everything they could to help him. After ten days of intensive care, the young cat had improved significantly, but due to a spinal inury, he still had mobility issues that caused him to have difficulty with balance and coordination. Consequently, he was named Ben after Benjamin Button, the fictional character who aged in reverse. “He walked like an old man but was the age of a kitten,” says Sandy.
Due to his mobility issues, the vets determined it would be best for Ben to find a home with someone who had experience with veterinary medicine, especially because they thought he might have a bone-related infection that would require months of antibiotics and pain and anti-inflammatory medications.
However, he was placed in two different foster homes and he failed to thrive in either one of them, so Sandy and her husband offered to foster Ben, bringing him home on April 29, 2016, when he was approximately a year old. “Those initial two weeks were intense,” remembers Sandy. “We used many yoga mats to help with his mobility, a cut down litter box so that he could shuffle in and out, and a twice a day multiple medication schedule.”
While caring for Ben was daunting, Sandy and Adam were more determined than ever to give him the care he needed, and at the end of the first two weeks, the couple officially adopted him, accepting all financial responsibility for his ongoing care.
More than three years later, Ben is doing better than ever, although he does have a wobbly walk that causes a lot of people to incorrectly assume he has cerebellar hypoplasia, a non-progressive neurological condition. “His un-biological brother Norman has this,” explains Sandy, “but it’s not Ben’s brain that’s affected, it’s his entire spine.”
Despite being a bit uncoordinated, Ben is an incredibly active 4-year-old cat who enjoys going for walks, trying to catch worms after it rains, and taking rides in his parents’ truck. He also loves scratching the yoga mats his mom and dad have placed around their home to make it easier and safer for Ben to get around, and he adores a good afternoon nap, proving he’s actually a pretty typical feline.
“Special needs cats are not that challenging!” says Sandy. “They have the best personalities and chances are someone has a cat with the same special needs and can help you adapt to those changes in your home to provide them with a healthy happy life.”
When Sandy and her husband first brought Ben home, he had difficulty getting in and out of the litter box, so they had to modify it to make it easier for him to use. He was also unable to safely get up and down from high places — such as the bed or the couch — so they had to make sure not to leave Ben anywhere he could fall off of.
Fortunately, this handsome ginger cat’s mobility has improved significantly over the years, so Sandy and Adam now have to make fewer special accommodations for Ben. “We wouldn’t call it challenging,” says Sandy, “but rather we’re learning to adapt the home to his needs so that he can enjoy looking out windows and get on and off furniture without injuring himself.”
Fortunately for Ben, who was living on the streets when he suffered serious injuries that required months of treatment, he ended up at an emergency animal hospital where he met Sandy, who not only helped save his life, she gave him a home after he failed to thrive with two other families. However, it’s Adam, not Sandy, who has the strongest bond with this very special boy. “Ben and CatDad are a duo,” says Sandy. “Even though CatMom basically saved him, Ben has chosen Adam to be his person.”
Thankfully, Sandy doesn’t mind their unique relationship, and she’s just thankful she and Adam get to share their lives with this truly special cat. “Ben means the world to us!” says Sandy. “He fills our home with sass and energy and we would not be complete without him. Ben is family, and he is home.”
To learn more about this handsome cat, you can follow Ben on Instagram.