Shortly after her beloved cat Quinton passed away from oral squamous carcinoma in May 2020, Georgie learned that Leo, a tabby cat with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), was looking for a forever home. “We have experience caring for a cat with Ehlers-Danlos, so it felt like fate,” says Georgie.
Two years ago, Georgie and her partner Chris adopted Toby, who has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and Quinton from the RSPCA near their home in Stroud, Gloucestershire, England, following the September 2018 passing of Herbie, a 16-year-old cat they had adopted just five months earlier. “We decided in his honor, we would adopt a special cat which is when we found Toby and Quinton, with Toby having EDS and Quinton being toothless,” explains Georgie.
Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is a group of connective tissue disorders that affects both humans and animals, and it can cause cats to have unusually stretchy, delicate, and loose skin due to defects in collagen production. “I think a lot of people maybe too heavily relate EDS in cats to EDS in humans,” says Georgie. “Cats with EDS don’t often have joint issues although some may.”
Georgie learned, like Toby, Leo’s Ehlers-Danlos syndrome causes him to have extremely fragile skin. “It tears very easily, heals slowly, and his wounds bleed minimally but can split and turn very large quickly,” explains Georgie. Incredibly, Leo managed to survive as a stray cat before he was trapped and taken to an animal rescue after his caretaker noticed he was covered in sores.
“He was treated for flea allergy dermatitis, but the wounds continued, and a biopsy was done,” says Georgie. The results determined Leo had Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, or feline cutaneous asthenia as it is known when it affects cats. In his first foster home, Leo was initially a bit fearful, but by the time he was placed with his second foster family, he was very affectionate and friendly boy.
Through a support group for people with pets with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Georgie and her partner Chris learned Leo was ready for his forever home, and the couple thought he might be the perfect addition to their family. “Toby was very clingy and we were worried that he would become very lonely without Quinton,” remembers Georgie, so they adopted Leo on June 13, 2020, when he was approximately 18 months old. “The first night he was with us, he slept next to me in bed all night and he has every night since.”
In addition to cuddling with his mom — and even sharing a pillow with Georgie at night — Leo likes to play, especially with his feather wand toy, and he enjoys chasing after moths and flies. Leo also likes playing with Toby, but because they both have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Georgie and Chris have to take a number of precautions to ensure their safety. “Play time can be a big struggle as we want them to be stimulated and happy, but rough play is a major no because of how fragile they both are,” explains Georgie.
Consequently, unless they are being supervised, Leo and Toby are kept in separate rooms, including overnight when Georgie and Chris are asleep. Also, neither of these special needs cats are allowed outdoors, and they both wear clothing and nail caps to protect their incredibly delicate skin.
“We often try to keep play on the bed so they have a soft area to jump around and land on,” says Georgie, and she makes sure to be gentle when she indulges Leo in his favorite activity: snuggling. “He loves being held and having his head kissed. When I wake up and say good morning, he’ll dive into my face for morning kisses and cuddles.”
While Georgie and her partner are willing and able to provide Leo with the extra care and attention he requires, she cautions others from adopting a cat with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome without doing lots of research. However, for those who are confident they are up for the challenge of caring for a cat with this rare condition, Georgie believes they will find it to be incredibly rewarding.
“It’s a lot of work at times — money, stress, worry and heartache — but the love is just immeasurable,” says Georgie. “Special needs doesn’t mean they have to sacrifice a quality of life, it just means that there’s extra work to put in to making sure they have the best quality of life. And that extra work is so worth it to see them happy and thriving.”
Thanks to Georgie and Chris, Leo is thriving, although they suspect he may have gastrointestinal issues, which they are closely monitoring. They’re also keeping a close eye on Leo and Toby for any signs of pain or discomfort, but right now they’re confident these special boys are both very happy.
“EDS in humans can be very painful and debilitating but that doesn’t mean it is for cats too,” explains Georgie. “They enjoy their life more than they feel any discomfort, and we monitor both of the boys closely to make sure that they enjoy every moment of their lives.”
While losing Quinton in May 2020 was very difficult for Georgie and Chris, it also inspired them to make Leo the newest member of their family, just like Herbie’s passing in 2018 motivated them to adopt Quinton and Toby, proving it’s possible to find positivity even during the darkest of times.
“Someone said to us that they believe Leo was sent by Quinton to help us and Toby get through losing him and I really think it’s true,” says Georgie. “I know Quinton would adore Leo and Toby loves having someone around. It’s tough sometimes but he’s really wiggled his way deep into our hearts.”
To learn more about this handsome cat, you can follow Leo on Instagram.