When Katie saw a Facebook post in February 2015 from Perth Rescue Angels about Bowie, a special needs cat who desperately needed a foster home, she was eager to help the fluffy tabby and white feline with radial hypoplasia (RH). “They posted for urgent care for a cat that would otherwise be put to sleep,” remembers Katie. “They were rushing to find care for him before the vet closed that day.”
For the past few months, Bowie had been living at a vet’s office near Katie’s home in Perth, Western Australia, but they had been unable to find anyone who was willing to adopt him. “Bowie was born with radial hypoplasia,” explains Katie. “A gene mutation causes it and it means his radius bones in his forelegs are unusually short.”
While the congenital condition didn’t significantly affect Bowie’s mobility or quality of life, the vet’s office hadn’t managed to find a forever home for him and were planning to euthanize him unless an organization or individual agreed to take him. Thankfully, Perth Rescue Angels stepped forward, saving Bowie’s life, and turned to social media to try to find a foster family for the fluffy feline.
“I saw his photo on their page and I thought, ‘Now is the time to try out fostering a cat!’ ” remembers Katie. “I couldn’t be another person that did nothing.” While Katie had never cared for a cat before, much less one with special needs, she felt compelled to help Bowie and applied to become a foster carer for Perth Rescue Angels. Katie’s application was approved and she arranged to pick Bowie up from a representative from the non-profit organization.
“I met the lady that picked him up from the vet in an underground carpark at Ikea,” remembers Katie. “He was quiet the whole hour drive home.” Once Bowie arrived at his foster home, Katie’s dogs instantly took a liking to him, and within a week, she decided to adopt her very first cat. “I knew pretty quickly — after all of my dogs were so lovely to him — that he’d found his forever home,” explains Katie.
It’s been more than three years since Katie met Bowie for the first time, and this handsome special needs boy is doing great, although there have been a few surprises along the way.
“He was originally said to be about two years old when I adopted him in 2015, but I’ve recently found out he is probably about 10 years old,” says Katie. Unfortunately, senior cats are more prone to kidney failure, and Bowie was recently diagnosed with renal disease after an emergency trip to the vet.
“He had become very sick very quickly — vomiting, drinking a lot of water and not eating,” explains Katie. “Blood tests showed his kidneys were functioning at about five percent, so there was no chance to take a biopsy and see what kind of kidney failure he was suffering from.”
Thankfully, after being hospitalized for a couple of days, Bowie improved significantly and was discharged from the vet’s office. Since then, Katie has been able to successfully manage Bowie’s kidney disease with a special diet and the occasional vet visit. “He is on a special protein reduced diet, and he loves the food, so that is great,” says Katie. “The vet has suggested his kidney disease could be attributed to his genetic deformities, but other than, that they don’t know.”
While Katie’s current vet has been very helpful and understanding, she has had to contend with medical professionals who think Bowie should be euthanized for having radial hypoplasia. However, she has no intention of putting him to sleep just because he’s a bit slower and tires more easily than a typical cat.
“I had two vet clinics advise me it would ‘just be easier’ to put him to sleep because he would be hard to look after and ‘might’ have problems later in life,” says Katie. “There was no medical need to put him to sleep, so this made me incredibly mad.”
Bowie, who is believed to be around 10 years old, doesn’t require a lot of special accommodations, and Katie is more than happy to give him the love and patience he needs to have a happy and healthy life. “I just let Bowie show me what he needed, and I didn’t have to change a lot,” says Katie, and this handsome boy gets to indulge in his favorite pastimes: eating, sleeping, and playing.
“He loves playing with toys, but only interactive ones that he can bite at,” says Katie. “He likes to be carried around and cuddled. I usually wake up in the middle of the night with him snoring into my ear; that’s pretty cute.”
Since adopting Bowie three years ago, Katie has been inspired to foster and adopt other special needs cats, and she does her best to make sure this senior boy isn’t frightened or intimidated by the other felines who share his home. While Katie has gone on to adopt four other special needs kitties, Bowie — her very first cat — will always have a special place in her heart.
“He has taught me so much about cats; how little respect they have within our society; how many of them need saving,” says Katie, “and [he] helped me to start educating people about cats in every sense, so he is the cat that started this journey of mine.”
Today, Katie’s an advocate for cats with special needs, and she hopes more people will consider adopting unique felines like Bowie. “They deserve the same love as every other cat,” says Katie, but when she stepped up to foster Bowie, she felt compelled to help a cat in need, not a special needs cat.
“I didn’t really decide on him because he had special needs as such,” says Katie. “I guess I chose him because nobody else did. I wasn’t looking for a cat, but he found me and I am really happy about that.”
To learn more about this adorable cat, you can follow Bowie on Instagram.