When Stray Cat Alliance asked Heather Sunderland, president and founder of Under One Sky Animal Rescue (UOSAR), if she would be willing to rescue a six-week-old special needs kitten who was in danger of being euthanized, she was eager to help the tiny paralyzed cat. “They contacted me because I have tons of experience with caring for paraplegics,” explains Heather.
Through UOSAR, a Los Angeles organization dedicated to helping cats and dogs in need, Heather has rescued several cats with paralysis and incontinence, including Beluga and Sammy, so she jumped at the opportunity to help yet another special needs kitty. “The vet was going to put her down because she was — in his opinion — not going to have a good life,” explains Heather. “I saw a photo of her just sitting in her own poop and I knew I had to try to help her.”
Heather learned the kitten had been found dragging herself along the streets of Los Angeles, injured and alone, and taken to a nearby animal clinic. The veterinarian determined Alita had suffered some sort of blunt force trauma, although he couldn’t say for sure how she had received her injuries. “She had black scabs from all the dried blood all over her anus, vagina, and back legs,” says Heather.
On September 21, 2018, Heather rescued the kitten from the vet’s office, saving her from euthanasia. Shortly after meeting the resilient young cat in person, Heather chose a name for the kitten that exemplified her remarkable spirit: Alita.
“I love anime and I remembered Alita Battle Angel as being one of my favorites,” explains Heather. “In short, a young female cyborg is found in a scrap heap missing some of her body parts and she is rebuilt by a cyber-doctor and renamed — she becomes an unsung hero of the city.”
With Heather’s help, Alita spent the next few weeks recovering from her injuries, and it didn’t take long for this adorable kitten to make all the other cats at UOSAR fall in love with her. Three months after she was rescued, Alita is thriving, proving that cats with incontinence and paralysis are capable of having very happy and active lives.
“People think that a paraplegic cat can’t have a good life when the opposite is true,” says Heather. “They can still play and use their front legs — or back legs — to run, and a lot of them are super fast as well. They do everything the same as normal cats, they just do it a little differently.”
Like a typical young cat, Alita is full of energy, and she spends most of her time exploring her new home in Los Angeles. Even though her paralysis prevents her from moving like the average feline, it doesn’t stop Alita from getting where she wants to go. “Alita is in a climbing phase!” says Heather. “She likes to climb everything!”
In addition to keeping a watchful eye on this curious cat, Heather has placed pads and pillows all over the rescue, just in case Alita happens fall. While Heather is constantly amazed by how strong, determined, and capable Alita is, not everyone is as impressed by her tenacity.
“So many people get sad when I show them a video of Alita climbing the ramps instead of seeing what an astounding accomplishment that is!” says Heather. “I would like people to see past the injury and see the actual life that these very special babies are living.”
Without a doubt, Alita is a very happy young cat who is loved by Heather and the other animals at UOSAR. However, caring for a cat with paralysis and incontinence like Alita is not without its challenges: due to the location of her spinal injury, she can’t wear diapers, so Heather has to express her bladder multiple times a day.
“Of course there are a lot of challenges with paraplegic cats and Alita is no exception,” says Heather, “but if you have patience and a kind heart, then you can get past any hurdle.”
Due to Alita’s young age, there’s a possibility she might regain control of her bladder as she gets older, but no matter what the future holds, there’s no doubt this remarkable little girl will have a great life with Heather by her side. “I love all my rescued babies, most of which were just thrown out like so much rubbish,” says Heather. “Alita will never know pain or suffering ever again in my care. This kitten is hard as nails; she is so fearless too!”
To learn more about this stunning kitten, you can follow Alita on Instagram.