When Denise was asked to foster a pair of kittens with severely contracted tendons, she was eager to help the 8-week-old special needs cats who’d been rescued from a hoarding situation in June 2016. Denise had been employed at PAWS Chicago, but she’d recently left the nonprofit organization for a position in veterinary rehabilitation with Dr. McNamara.
“Dr. Link at PAWS suggested I foster them,” explains Denise. “Dr. McNamara allowed me to bring them to work and perform rehab therapy to address their contracted tendons, and everyone on the team worked with them.”
Being a big fan of the British TV show Absolutely Fabulous, Denise named the kittens Patsy and Edina, or Eddie for short, and she got to work doing everything she could to improve their mobility. “Initially, they were like tight little balls, but gradually loosened up with rehab therapy — mostly stretching, therapeutic ultrasound, static exercises, and neuromuscular stimulation at first,” says Denise.
While she was unable to determine the cause of the kittens’ severely contracted tendons, Denise believes it may have have been related to the terrible conditions the sisters lived in before they were rescued by PAWS. “I assume it is due to being rescued from a hoarder, possible inbreeding, and lack of nutrition,” says Denise, but she knows Patsy and Eddie didn’t begin showing symptoms until they were approximately three weeks old.
When they were rescued, both kittens had severe upper respiratory infections, which may have affected Patsy and Eddie’s nervous systems, but it’s impossible to know for sure. “I never pursued diagnostics due to cost, and instead focused on rehab,” explains Denise. As the kittens got older, Patsy’s mobility improved while Eddie’s actually declined, making it harder for her to get around like a typical cat.
“Her muscles and tendons didn’t grow with her, and she never developed muscle mass, so she could not support her weight as she grew, even in the front,” says Denise. When Eddie Eddie reached six months old, Denise started doing hydrotherapy with her and her sister, and she found swimming helped keep the kittens flexible.
In addition to regular rehab sessions, Denise continued looking for a forever home for the special sisters. However, when Patsy and Eddie turned eight months old, Denise knew she wouldn’t be able to part with them, so she adopted the adorable litter mates. “I couldn’t give them up,” says Denise.
More than three years after Denise agreed to foster Patsy and Eddie, these fun-loving and affectionate felines are thriving in their forever home. “Patsy loves crinkle ball fetch, chasing one of my other cats, exploring, and head butting everything,” says Denise, “and I really think Patsy loves swimming. Eddie loves food, food, food, and being held, napping, sitting outside, and string toys.”
While it’s obvious to Denise that Patsy and Eddie are happy, she has had people question their quality of life, including one person who asked her why they hadn’t been euthanized. Granted, because of their contracted tendons, these sisters aren’t as fast or agile as the average cat, and their mom believes they realize they are more vulnerable. “They have no defense around prey-driven dogs, or dogs and cats that come on strong,” explains Denise.
However, due to the nature of their mom’s work, Patsy and Eddie have grown up around lots of different animals, so they’re surprisingly comfortable with dogs. Also, even though they seem to know they’re vulnerable, these adorable young cats don’t appear to think of themselves as handicapped. “Patsy and Edina have no idea they are disadvantaged, especially Patsy, since she’s very mobile and strong-willed,” says Denise.
While they are both fairly capable and independent, they do require more care than the average feline, particularly Eddie, who is unable to urinate on her own. “Eddie cannot be left alone too long, since she can flip herself over, and needs bladder expression,” explains Denise. “But I have a few people who love to watch her if I’m gone for a long time.”
In fact, Eddie is beloved by practically everyone she meets, which is why Denise thought this sweet and gentle girl would make a wonderful therapy pet. Denise was understandably surprised and hurt when Eddie was denied, sight unseen, an opportunity to become a therapy cat because of her disability. “They thought she couldn’t show discomfort, which is far from the truth,” says Denise.
While they may not be certified therapy cats, Eddie and Patsy spread joy and happiness everywhere they go, and Denise is so grateful she gets to share her life with these special girls. “Their lives are just as valuable and fulfilling as a healthy, mobile animal’s life,” says Denise.
To learn more about these adorable cats, you can follow Patsy and Eddie on Instagram.