When Joe and Tracy Pitisci learned that a three-legged feral cat who had recently given birth at an animal shelter on March 14, 2018, was desperately in need of a foster home for herself and her kittens, the couple offered to help.
“The feral mom, who we later named Diana, was very stressed there and the family needed to leave the shelter if they were to survive,” remembers Tracy. The couple placed Diana and her kittens in the spare bedroom of their Jacksonville, Florida home, knowing the feral mother cat would want plenty of privacy to nurse and look after her babies.
However, much to Tracy’s surprise, it wasn’t long before Diane allowed her to handle her kittens, and she immediately noticed that one of the young cats had severely twisted hind limbs.
“Other than his crooked legs, he seemed healthy,” explains Tracy, and while she was concerned for the little black kitten, it was obvious he was happy and not at all in pain. “I just knew there was something special about him and that he was going to make it.”
After all, the black kitten was full of life, so much so that when they had to choose a name for him, they decided on Aries, a reference to Ares, the Greek god of war. “When we picked up Aries, he gave a little squeal that sounded like a war cry,” remembers Tracy.
While Aries appeared healthy, two of his siblings passed away shortly after arriving at their foster home, so Tracy and Joe took him and his litter mates to the vet to get them thoroughly examined. A medical examination revealed Aries was born with severely contracted tendons in his rear legs, as well as joints that face the wrong way, but he was otherwise healthy.
While the veterinarian was unable to determine exactly why Aries was born with these issues, the doctor speculated that they may be related to the conditions his mom Diana lived in during her pregnancy. “His mother is missing a front leg and spent most of her pregnancy in a kennel at a rural shelter,” says Tracy. “She might have favored laying on one side of her body where Aries could have been developing in a cramped position.” However, because Diana was born with just three legs, it’s possible Aries’s unique hind limbs are the result of a congenital condition passed on to him by his mother and not the product of being housed in a small space during her pregnancy.
Despite being willing to arrange for Aries to have surgery on his hind legs, after consulting with several specialists, Tracy and Joe learned that he wasn’t a good candidate for any of the available treatments. “One vet specialist explained that while he could cut the tendons to loosen them, they would likely grow back the same way since Aries was still a kitten, but more importantly, Aries would be in a lot of pain,” says Tracy. Not wanting to subject Aries to a painful — and potentially pointless procedure — the couple decided they would continue to revisit his treatment options periodically in the future.
After reaching this decision, Tracy and Joe focused their attention on Aries’s mom Diana, working to socialize her to the best of their ability. Over time, Diana began to trust her foster parents, and while the initial plan had been to place her in a feral colony, Tracy and Joe were concerned about how she would fare, especially because she was born with just three legs.
At the same time, the couple found themselves becoming closer and closer to Aries until they had both been captivated by his charms. “We just fell in love with him — he has such an adorable personality and he is very clever,” explains Tracy. “We then discussed if our home provided what Aries needed to thrive so he could have the best possible life. The answer was easy.”
After approximately four months of fostering Aries, Tracy and Joe officially adopted him — as well as his mom Diana — giving this pair of special cats a wonderful forever home where they get to spend their lives together. Today, they’re both doing great, and while Aries has the more serious congenital condition, it’s Diana who has made the greatest strides. “After many months of trust building, we are now able to pet and hold her,” says Tracy. “She was a great mom and is now affectionate, showing us the love that she once showed only to the kittens.”
Diana, whose other babies found forever homes, is still very loving towards Aries, and mother and son can often be found with one another, looking out the window in search of lizards and bugs. When he’s not with Diana, Aries enjoys playing with Tracy and Joe’s other cats, cuddling with his adoptive parents, and racing around the house. Aries also likes going on trips with his mom and dad, making this unique black kitten a bit different from the average feline in more ways than one.
“Aries loves to go places and experience new things,” explains Tracy. “When we get his carrier out of the closet, he chirps and gets excited. He climbs into the carrier on his own and is ready to go. We try to take him as many places that we can. He likes to go down the slide on his own at the park and he visits the beach.”
While Tracy and Joe never intended to adopt a special needs kitty — let alone two — when they agreed to foster a three-legged cat and her kittens, this couple is so thankful to have Diana and Aries in their lives. Though they haven’t had to make a lot of special accommodations for Diana, they’ve made a few changes to make Aries’s life a little easier.
“He cannot jump onto things, so we must make sure that food and water are accessible near the ground level,” says Tracy. “Previously, we had the cat food and water up on tables in their own eating areas — we moved those items so that he can reach them.”
Also, because Aries walks and runs a bit differently from a typical cat, they have to keep the floors in their home free of any obstacles or debris, something Tracy and Joe are more than willing to do. “We want him to be happy and comfortable, so that far outweighs any small inconvenience on our end,” says Tracy. While a lot of people might think of special needs cats as time-consuming and expensive, that simply hasn’t been this couple’s experience.
Without a doubt, Aries is a unique cat, but as far as his parents are concerned, his needs and wants really aren’t that different from those of an average feline. “He just wants to eat, play, and receive love and attention,” says Tracy. “His legs have not stopped him from living a normal life and he is not difficult to care for.”
Consequently, they hope more people will consider adopting special needs cats, because not only has caring for Aries and Diana been rewarding, it’s been life-altering for both Tracy and Joe. “Aries has changed our lives more than we thought possible,” says Tracy. “He brings out something special in us. Aries is such a wonderful cat and his positive attitude and determination reminds us of how we should be towards life as well. Having him with us has been an amazing experience.”
To learn more about this stunning cat, you can follow Aries on Instagram.