Janez was chatting with a friend in a park near his home in Santiago, Chile, when he noticed a kitten laying on the ground nearby, completely immobile. “The whole time I assumed it was dead since it didn’t move and the whole time I spent sitting there I felt so sad about it,” remembers Janez.
However, when Janez got closer to the calico cat that evening in February 2014, he was shocked to see the fluffy feline was actually moving her front legs. “As I realized she was still alive, I walked towards her and that’s when she looked at me with those huge round eyes and for some reason I immediately started crying,” remembers Janez.
Determined to help the young cat, Janez picked up the injured kitten and immediately rushed her to the nearest open vet. “To me it never really felt like a decision,” explains Janez. “I just couldn’t leave her there to die — that was never an option.”
At the animal clinic, a thorough examination revealed the calico feline was approximately three months old, and the veterinarian suspected she had been hit by a car, leaving her with incontinence and hind leg paralysis. “The vet said it was possible she would walk again since she was still very young,” says Janez. “I called my mom and told her I was bringing a new cat home.”
With the help of his best friend, Janez named the special needs kitten Sally, an ode to one of the main characters from Tim Burton’s film The Nightmare Before Christmas. “It had to do with the character being a rag doll, seemingly faulty and flawed, but beautiful and unique,” explains Janez.
When Janez brought the injured kitten home, Sally was extremely weak and moved very slowly, and she wasn’t even able to open her eyes. However, when Janez put a handful of food in front of Sally’s nose, she immediately perked up and devoured the meal. “She has never lost that appetite,” says Janez.
Not long after rescuing Sally, Janez took her back to the vet to learn more about the trauma the little kitten had experienced. Much to his surprise, he discovered the young calico cat’s injuries weren’t the result of being hit by a car like the first doctor has assumed. “After having an x-ray done we found out she was never run over, but instead had a bullet stuck in her neck, probably from an air gun,” remembers Janez.
Consequently, Sally was unlikely to ever regain the ability to walk or control her bladder and bowels, but Janez remained committed to caring for the special needs cat. At first, Janez struggled to manually express Sally’s bladder, but six years later, it’s no longer a challenge. “It has become very easy for me, but Sally needs to go 3-4 times a day, so it’s hard to manage when I have something to do after work, since I have to go back home to take her to the bathroom,” says Janez.
As a result, Janez brings this gorgeous girl with him whenever he has to be away for long periods of time, or he finds someone who is willing and able to express Sally’s bladder when he’s out of town. However, over the past six years Janez has discovered Sally is a lot easier to care for than people often assume. “I think people only think about the challenges and not about the positive aspects of it,” says Janez. “You don’t have to worry about her destroying furniture, getting on the table to eat your food, or falling off the balcony.”
This special girl is also a wonderful companion who enjoys nothing more than snuggling her dad. “She loves cuddling with me while I work, study, or watch TV,” says Janez. “She will purr and sleep for hours without any complaints.”
In fact, Janez recently fostered a litter of kittens without special needs while he was in quarantine due to the COVID-19 crisis, and the experience only deepened his appreciation for Sally and her easy-going nature. “Taking care of them was so stressful compared to what I’m used to with Sally,” explains Janez. “She really is an angel in comparison.”
Not only has Janez found a lot of people falsely assume paralyzed and incontinent cats like Sally are extremely difficult and time-consuming to care for, he’s also discovered many individuals believe every mobility-challenged feline will benefit from a wheelchair or a cart.
However, this definitely hasn’t been Janez’s experience with Sally. “Sally doesn’t like it and I’ve read most cats don’t enjoy using them either,” says Janez. “When I put Sally on hers she will just stand there and it’s very hard to make her walk in it, even though she can.”
While Sally doesn’t need a wheelchair or a cart to have a very happy and active life, this affectionate girl definitely needs lots of love in order to thrive. Thankfully, when Janez rescued Sally six years ago, he not only saved her life, he gave this special cat a home filled with love and made her a member of his family. Their remarkable bond has only gotten stronger with time, and it’s a relationship they both cherish. “She’s my daughter,” says Janez. “I can’t think of her in any other way.”
To learn more about this gorgeous cat, you can follow Sally on Instagram.