When Valeria Searle arrived home late one evening in July 2006, she spotted an injured calico cat as she was attempting to enter her parents’ house in Santiago, Chile. “I was unlocking the door and when I looked down I saw the tiniest little kitty with her hind legs all the way back, reaching to my pants and meowing without making any sound,” remembers Valeria. “She was so, so small she could fit in the palm of my hand.”
Smitten with the tiny kitten, Searle didn’t think twice about rescuing the friendly calico cat, even though she was a student at the time and had no intention of taking on the expense and responsibility of a pet. “I took her inside with me and made the commitment to take care of her, whatever she needed,” says Valeria.
Soon after rescuing the kitten, Valeria took the injured calico to the vet for thorough medical examination. The vet determined the kitten was approximately four weeks old and paralyzed, and he told Valeria the young feline probably wouldn’t live for more than a few months. “He was horrible with her, didn’t treat her well, and couldn’t give me any advice on how to take care of her,” remembers Valeria.
While the kitten — who Valeria named Mambita as an homage to mambo, the Latin dance — was given a poor prognosis, her mom refused to give up on her. Valeria found another vet with a better reputation than the first, and x-rays revealed Mambita, or Mambi for short, had sustained a spinal injury that left her with hind leg paralysis. “There was a rumor in my neighborhood that Mambi came from one of the houses in front of ours,” says Valeria. “Someone closed a door when she was walking in, smashed her little body right in the middle, and then left her outside of my house across the street.”
Due to her age, Mambi wasn’t a candidate for surgery, but her mom — at the vet’s recommendation — tried physical therapy to help the paralyzed kitten regain some of her mobility. While the physical therapy wasn’t particularly effective, this resilient and determined girl was still extremely active. “Being paralyzed never stopped her from doing anything she wanted,” explains Valeria. “She used to climb the carpeted ladder to the second floor in my dad’s house back home — imagine doing that only with your arms!”
In addition to paralysis, Mambi’s spinal injury left her incontinent, so Valeria had to learn how to express both her bladder and her bowels. Unfortunately, despite being expressed several times a day, Mambi developed chronic bladder injections, and she was diagnosed with kidney failure when she was just four years old.
While she has a range of health issues, Mambi recently celebrated her 12th birthday, and today this stunning senior cat lives in Vancouver, Canada, with her mom and her dad, Charles, a veterinarian Valeria married five years. “We are lucky that my husband loved her right away too,” says Valeria. “He takes care of her with his extra knowledge — we have a beautiful family, the three of us.”
View this post on Instagram
Today, Mambi is enjoying life with her mom and dad, although she misses Valeria’s family home in Chile and being able to spend supervised time outside. However, this gorgeous 12-year-old cat has adjusted well to living with Valeria and Charles in an apartment in Vancouver, and she’s still very energetic and extroverted.
“She loves to play with her tiny mouse toys. She grabs them and throws them into the air — so cute and funny!” says Valeria. “And she loves when we have friends over — she’s really outgoing and cute with other people.”
View this post on Instagram
Even though Mambi enjoys making new friends, there is no one this adorable special needs cat loves more than her mom. In fact, when Mambi is apart from her parents, she gets depressed which can lead to other health issues, so Valeria and Charles rarely travel anywhere without her.
While they’re more than happy to make special accommodations for Mambi, not everyone understands the unique relationship Valeria and Charles have with this calico kitty. “They can’t believe the incredible connection we have,” says Valeria. “It’s more powerful than with a ‘regular’ pet.”
Over the past 12 years, Valeria has also encountered individuals who believe cats like Mambi should be put to sleep simply because they don’t move like typical felines. “They don’t really know special pets can live full, happy, and mostly healthy lives,” says Valeria.
She has also met people who think Mambi would have a better quality of life if she had a wheelchair, but Valeria has learned she — like a lot of paralyzed cats — prefers to get around on her own. “They can move and drag themselves on any type of floor — on the ground, on grass — and they won’t get hurt,” says Valeria.
While Mambi requires a bit more care than the average cat, Valeria and her husband Charles are happy to do everything they can to give this remarkable girl the best life possible. Plus, even cats without special needs come with their own challenges, which means the joy of pet ownership always comes with some level of added responsibility. “It may be more demanding than a ‘regular’ pet, but if you want to have one, you have to sacrifice some things to take care of them even if they don’t need special care,” says Valeria.
When Valeria met Mambi 12 years ago, this beautiful cat was injured, alone, and desperately in need of someone to come to her aid. While Valeria, who was in her second year of college at the time, wasn’t planning to adopt a cat — special needs or otherwise — she felt compelled to help Mambi.
More than a decade later, Valeria and Mambi have formed an unbreakable bond, and she remains just as committed to this special girl — maybe more so — as she was back in July 2006. “I love her so so much — she depends on me a lot, emotionally and physically,” says Valeria. “She means everything to me; she’s my baby.”
To learn more about this stunning cat, you can follow Mambi on Instagram.