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Meet The Incredible Kitten With An Amazing Mom Who Helped Him Learn To Walk Again After He Survived Alleged Abuse And Neglect

When Marie Gutshall learned about a paralyzed kitten through social media who was desperately in need of a foster home, she felt compelled to help the young feline who had been injured approximately 10 days earlier, even though she’d never cared for a cat with special needs before. “A child had allegedly thrown him against a wall, rendering him paralyzed,” explains Marie.

tabby kitten who survived a spinal injury
Image via @riefosters on Instagram

After the rescue Marie works with agreed to pay for the kitten’s initial medical exam, she offered to foster the 7-week-old cat. On January 30, 2019 — more than a week after the kitten sustained the injuries that had left him paralyzed — Marie met the kitten and his rescuer for the first time when they arrived at her home that evening. “She brought him in the small square laundry basket that he’d been living in,” remembers Marie. “It was full of urine and feces and he had fleas crawling all over him — he was also starving.”

 

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Marie was shocked not only by the kitten’s living conditions, but also by his appearance, and she was immediately struck by how tiny the young cat was. While it was obvious the kitten had been severely neglected, the ordeal and trauma he’d experienced hadn’t extinguished his love and affection for people, including his new foster mom. “When I picked him up from the basket and held him against me, he began purring and rubbing against my hand as I pet him,” says Marie.

 

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Even though she didn’t know how to care for a paralyzed cat, or if the kitten would even survive, Marie knew she had to do everything in her power to help him. “He needed me,” says Marie. The following day, Marie took the tabby kitten to an animal hospital near her home in Philadelphia where a thorough examination revealed multiple injuries to his spine and chest that were consistent with the trauma he’d allegedly experienced.

 

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“At the end of the day, they recommended euthanasia,” remembers Marie, but she was reluctant to give up without getting a second opinion. “I just knew that wasn’t the right decision and so the doctors suggested I go to Penn Vet, a specialty animal hospital that has an emergency department.”

 

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As Marie was driving to the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, she started thinking of the perfect name for her very special foster kitten, when the right one popped into her head: Charlie. “It just came to me,” remembers Marie. “It felt perfect.”

tabby kitten who survived a spinal injury
Image via @riefosters on Instagram

Fortunately, the veterinarians at the University of Pennsylvania didn’t advise putting Charlie to sleep. Instead, they recommended surgery, followed by regular physical therapy and pulsed electromagnetic field and laser treatments. “The goal of surgery for me was to relieve his pain so he had a wonderful quality of life,” explains Marie. “Being able to walk would be a huge bonus, but I was prepared to love and care for him regardless.”

tabby kitten who survived a spinal injury
Image via @riefosters on Instagram

Following a CT scan, Charlie had surgery on February 4, 2019, and doctors discovered his spinal cord was compressed, not severed, and they were able to relieve some of the pressure. Three days later, Marie brought Charlie home, and she began doing light physical therapy with him.

 

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The resilient tabby was making great progress, but on February 20, 2019, Charlie’s health rapidly declined, and Marie rushed him to the vet. “Charlie became very sick with a fever of 105.8 and spent a week in the ICU at Penn fighting for his life,” says Marie. At the time, doctors couldn’t figure out the cause of Charlie’s symptoms, and wasn’t until after he’d made a full recovery and was released from the hospital that he was diagnosed with feline calcivirus, which causes upper respiratory infections and oral disease in cats.

tabby kitten who survived a spinal injury
Image via @riefosters on Instagram

Back at home with his foster mom, this remarkable tabby resumed physical therapy, and at the end of March 2019, Marie — determined to do everything she could to help Charlie — started taking him for pulsed electromagnetic field and laser treatments, covering the costs of his medical care with the help of lots of generous donors.

 

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Over time, her dedication paid off, and the incredibly cute kitten slowly became able to use his hind legs again! As Charlie’s back limbs became stronger and stronger, his connection with his foster mom deepened, and on April 24, 2019, Marie officially adopted him, knowing there was no way she would ever be able to part with such a brave and lovable cat.

tabby kitten who survived a spinal injury
Image via @riefosters on Instagram

Today, Charlie is doing great, and while he doesn’t move like a typical cat, he’s far more mobile than he was when Marie met him for the first time. “He doesn’t let anything stop him from trying to do whatever he wants to do,” says Marie. “He chases the other cats and wrestles and plays with them. He climbs the cat tree and scratcher and the wall shelves.”

 

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As far as Marie is concerned, Charlie has no idea he has special needs, and while he requires a bit more care than the average feline, that certainly doesn’t mean he can’t have a long and happy life. “Paralyzed cats need more care, yes, but that doesn’t mean they should be euthanized or that they are not worthy of loving homes,” explains Marie.

 

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Without a doubt, Charlie — who enjoys eating treats, attacking his big brother, Bo, and racing around the house, has a loving home — and his days of being confined to a filthy laundry basket are just a distant memory.

 

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While a lot has changed over the past five months, the biggest change for this little cat is that he now has a family who treats him with the kindness, compassion, and dignity he has always deserved. “He’s so determined, spunky, and sweet,” says Marie. “I love this little dude with my entire heart — he is incredible.”

 

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While everyone, including the veterinarians who suggested euthanizing Charlie after meeting him for the first time, are amazed at the remarkable progress he’s made in such a short time, no one could be prouder of this adorable kitten than Marie. “Charlie is a constant reminder to not give up,” says Marie. “He inspires me to continue helping as many animals as I possibly can, healthy or not — they all deserve a chance.”

tabby kitten who survived a spinal injury
Image via @riefosters on Instagram

To learn more about this incredible kitten, you can follow Charlie on Instagram.

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