When Elise was at her job as a veterinarian in the suburbs of Chicago at the end of August 2018, one of her clients brought in an injured black and white kitten who had been left in a box on her porch. “When she opened the box, he had a wound on his neck, and he was taken to the ER vet where it was repaired,” explains Elise. “The next day, he was brought to me for a recheck examination.”
Right away, Elise was struck by the kitten’s tiny size and unique appearance, and based on his weight — just 1.3 pounds — and his teeth, she determined he was approximately six weeks old. “He was quiet during the exam, which isn’t surprising since the little guy was in a new place and had already gone through so much, but I was immediately drawn to him,” remembers Elise.
When someone suggested Elise should foster the kitten until he was old enough to find a forever a home, she immediately jumped at the opportunity to spend more time with the unusual black and white cat. “All of my animal family members are rescues, and the majority of them were adopted as special needs,” explains Elise. “Not only do I love rooting for the under dog — or cat in this case — I have always had a deep-seated respect for the will to live, and find peace in giving them time and opportunity to prosper.”
After agreeing to foster the incredibly cute kitten with the unusually large eyes, Elise decided he needed a name. With the help of her veterinary technician, Elise christened him Porg, a reference to the adorable sea-dwelling birds from Star Wars: The Last Jedi. “Everyone — myself included — thought it was the perfect name,” says Elise.
Not longer after Porg came to live with Elise, her partner Clare, and the couple’s many pets, she noticed that minor trauma related to rubbing against something sharp — or even grooming himself — caused him to have full thickness skin tears. Being an experienced veterinarian, Elise knew Porg was displaying the symptoms of feline cutaneous asthenia (FCA), or Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS). “This is an uncommon, inheritable condition that causes a defect in collagen production,” explains Elise. “Collagen is a structural protein that helps give many tissues, including the skin, its strength.”
In some instances, injuries related to EDS can require antibiotics and even stitches, but the risk of trauma can be minimized with the help of regular nail trims, protective clothing, and removing sharp and abrasive objects from the environment. Porg was also diagnosed with lens luxations, a rare eye condition that is sometimes seen in cats with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.
With lens luxations, the lenses can shift out of position, moving either to the front or the back of the eye. “Lens luxations can lead to inflammation of the eye,” says Elise. “When it’s in the back of the eye — posterior lens luxation — it may cause an abnormal ‘jelly’ or wave like movement of the iris called iridodonesis.”
By the time Porg was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and lens luxations, Elise and her partner had already fallen in love with him, and after realizing he would most likely require ongoing medical care, the couple decided to adopt him. In order to manage Porg’s eye inflammation, Elise tried a number of medications until she found the right one to manage Porg’s symptoms, and she and Clare worked to figure out how to prevent this special cat from causing serious injury to his skin.
“It was very discouraging to come home or wake up to find him with self-inflicted, sometimes serious, wounds,” explains Elise. “There were days of tears and frustrations. I would say the biggest obstacle was finding how to manage Porg, yet allow him to live a normal kitten life.”
Thankfully, Elise and her partner refused to give up, and through lots of trial and error, they eventually found solutions that enable Porg to live a happy and active life. “We have definitely made adjustments to ensure Porg stays as healthy as possible, and clothing is one of those!” says Elise. “His onesie is both comfortable for him — it doesn’t slow him down in the least — and helps provide an extra protective barrier to his skin.”
It’s been several months since Elise met Porg for the first time, and this approximately seven-month-old kitten is thriving in his forever home. “He is an incredibly active, goofy kitten,” says Elise. “He loves his toys, scampering about the house, and tormenting his special needs canine sibling Mowgli.”
When Porg isn’t playing, he can be found in the kitchen, using his unique charms to convince his parents to give him a snack, or cuddling up with his moms while making muffins and purring. Without a doubt, Porg is a very fortunate kitten who found a wonderful family, but it’s impossible not to think about what might have become of him if he hadn’t been discovered when he was.
“Porg is so lucky he was found in a timely manner and did not escape the cardboard box he was left in, as that most certainly would have resulted in further injury or even death,” says Elise. “I would encourage anyone that has or finds an animal they cannot care for to seek reliable help, such as animal control, humane societies, rescues, or reaching out to a local veterinarian — there are many resources that can help guide you.”
While she and her partner weren’t looking to adopt another pet when Porg arrived at the animal hospital at the end of August 2018, Elise is so thankful to have this special needs kitten in her life. Not only has Porg enabled her to learn more about how Ehlers-Danlos syndrome impacts cats, it has also allowed her to forge connections with people who are living with this rare condition.
“It was been wonderful sharing his story especially with the EDS community,” says Elise. “They have been so supportive and they certainly can face many hardships as well.” In turn, special needs cats can inspire people who are coping with chronic illnesses or special circumstances, which Porg definitely does.
However, it’s his fun-loving and affectionate personality that Elise and her partner Clare love most about this one of a kind kitten. “Porg has brought so much joy to our home! He is such a clown and brings us many smiles,” says Elise. “We just love having him in our lives and we feel lucky to share such a strong bond with him.”
To learn more about this adorable kitten, you can follow Porg on Instagram.