When Konstantina Giapountzopoulou discovered an injured black kitten in front of the home she shares with her family in Thessaloniki, Greece, on August 16, 2019, she realized he was desperately in need of help. The young cat was unable to move, and it didn’t take long for Konstantina to notice he had a large bite wound on his stomach. “I started screaming and my husband ran towards me and we immediately took him to the vet,” remembers Konstantina.
An examination revealed the kitten was approximately six weeks old, and he’d probably been attacked by a stray dog. The suspected attack had rendered the cat — who was most likely born on the streets — paralyzed and incontinent, and the vet’s prognosis for the injured feline wasn’t very good. “He told us that he was in a bad shape,” says Konstantina. “He suggested that we keep him in our house and if he managed to survive, we could later decide what to do with him.”
If he pulled through, the veterinarian suggested trying to find a foster home for the young feline, but Konstantina and her family — which includes her husband, her 18-year-old daughter, and her 22-year-old son — had other ideas. “Everybody in our family wanted to keep him, so we couldn’t think about anything else,” explains Konstantina. “He was a very small kitten and in bad shape and we think that everybody would do the same if they saw him in that condition.”
After deciding to permanently adopt the special needs kitten, the Giapountzopoulous named him Wheeler, because the vet had told them he would almost certainly never be able to walk again. “We thought of him going out for a walk in a special wheelchair and people watching and asking questions about him,” explains Konstantina. “We believed that this would be a motive for them to adopt cats with special needs and stray cats in general.”
Wheeler adjusted quickly to his new home and his new family, which includes Aura, a cat the Giapountzopoulous rescued from the streets in 2018 after finding her with wounds on her face that were most likely caused by a stray dog, as well as Mila, Misty, and Lucky Charm. Several months later, Wheeler is doing great, although he doesn’t use a wheelchair like his family initially anticipated. “We were told by everybody that it’s better to allow him to move and climb without one,” says Konstantina.
After all, a wheelchair would prevent Wheeler from being able to scale the furniture, which is one of his favorite pastimes. “He likes waiting outside our daughter’s room just to climb on her bed and fall asleep next to her while she is studying,” says Konstantina.
However, she’s concerned about Wheeler injuring himself when gets down from a bed or the couch, so she and her family have placed pillows around their home to help cushion his landings. In addition to spending time with the human members of his family, Wheeler loves to play with the other cats who share his home. “He likes playing hide and seek with Misty and he tries to chase her around,” says Konstantina.
While Wheeler is a fairly typical kitten, his family has to express his bladder multiple times a day, as well as help him defecate, so he requires more care than the average feline. Also, he occasionally has blood in his urine and stool, which may be related to him leaping off of furniture, so he has to go to the vet more frequently than most cats.
Fortunately, Konstantina and her family are happy to give Wheeler the extra care he needs to thrive, because they have a very unique bond with this handsome boy. “People tend to think that cats with paralysis are not capable of playing, of having fun, and of giving back the love that you offer to them,” says Konstantina. “On the contrary, Wheeler for example, is the center of attention.”
Because of his health challenges, Konstanina and her family are afraid Wheeler won’t live as long as a typical cat, which is why they’re very proactive about his medical care. It’s also the reason they make sure to treasure every moment they share with this remarkable kitten who changed all of their lives the moment Konstantina discovered Wheeler outside her home, injured and alone. “Despite the fact that we have four more cats, Wheeler means everything to us,” says Konstantina. “We tell the vet every time that we visit him that losing Wheeler is not an option.”
To learn more about this handsome kitten, you can follow Wheeler on Instagram.