Taramis was feeding the stray cats near her home in Santiago, Chile, when a ginger and white feline appeared in her yard in November 2017.
The young cat was desperate for something to eat, so Taramis offered her some food, which she quickly devoured. “She was starving,” remembers Taramis, “so she kept on coming to my yard for food and a couple of days later, I took her to the vet to spay her.”
At the vet, an examination revealed she was around a year old, and she appeared to be a healthy young cat. After getting her spayed, Taramis returned the cat — who she named Fede — to the area where she was found, a humane way of managing free-roaming feline populations known as trap-neuter-return (TNR). “I have no clue about her life before meeting me,” says Taramis. “Maybe she used to have a home because she was always really affectionate.”
Over the next few months, Fede frequently returned to Taramis’s yard for regular feedings, but one day in May 2018, the friendly orange and white cat stopped showing up. Concerned for Fede, Taramis was searching the area near her home when she discovered the young feline was in her neighbor’s backyard, injured and unable to move. “On May 18th, 2018, someone shot her,” remembers Taramis. “She was fighting for her life.”
Taramis rushed Fede to the vet, and the doctor determined the bullet was still lodged in her spine. The veterinarian attempted to remove the bullet but was unsuccessful, leaving Fede with hind leg paralysis and urinary incontinence.
“Since she had no owner, I decided to take that responsibility because no one else around me would’ve done it,” explains Taramis. “If I hadn’t done that, she’d have been euthanized and I thought that wasn’t fair, because she survived.” While she didn’t have any experience looking after a paralyzed or incontinent cat, Taramis quickly figured out how to give Fede the care she needed.
More than four years later, Fede is doing extremely well, and even though she doesn’t move like the average feline, this gorgeous girl has a great life! “She enjoys her life like any other ‘normal’ cat,” says Taramis. “She can walk and run, but using two instead of four legs.”
In addition to racing around her home, Fede loves to eat, and she will often steal her canine siblings’ food. She also enjoys playing with string, sunbathing in the backyard, and snuggling with Taramis. “She is very affectionate,” says Taramis, “so she loves to cuddle on my lap every time I sit down.”
While she isn’t all that different from the typical cat, Fede does require some special care. “I must express Fede’s bladder three times a day, so I can’t be outside my home all day,” explains Taramis, “and if I take a vacation and I can’t take Fede with me, I have to pay someone I trust to take care of her.”
Aside from these challenges, Taramis has found Fede is relatively easy to look after, and caring for a cat with paralysis and incontinence isn’t as difficult or expensive as people often assume. “They think having a disabled cat must cost a fortune and a lot of time,” says Taramis. “The only extra cost I have with Fede is the money I spend on baby wipes, paper towels, and disposable underpants, which are really cheap, and regarding time — it takes me 3-5 minutes to express her bladder.”
For Taramis, Fede is definitely worth the additional time and money, and she hopes sharing her story will help other people realize incontinent and paralyzed cats are capable of having happy and active lives. “As humans, we think that having paralysis is the end of the world, the end of freedom, but our little non-human siblings don’t agree with that,” explains Taramis. “They assume their new reality and continue with their lives as if nothing had happened.”
Consequently, while people often consider euthanasia the first — and only option — for special needs cats, Taramis believes it should be the last. After all, if Fede had been put to sleep, she would have missed four wonderful years filled with love and happiness, and Taramis may have never learned the important lessons this special cat has taught her. “When she was attacked I was really scared and angry, and it took me some time to accept everything,” remembers Taramis.
However, as she watched Fede adapt to her new body, Taramis slowly let go of the anger she had towards the person who injured this innocent girl. Instead of focusing on everything that had been taken from Fede, Taramis chose to focus on everything she was still capable of doing, and today, their bond is stronger than ever. “She’s a little ball of fur and love who reminds me I don’t have to be weak, I don’t have to be resentful, and I should enjoy every aspect of my life,” says Taramis. “She’s a model of strength and resilience.”
To learn more about this beautiful cat, you can follow Fede on Instagram.