When Kris, a professional photographer, was volunteering at her local rescue, Feline Rescue, Inc., in July 2016, three adorable black and white kittens — Calvin, Daisy, and Rosie — arrived to have their adoption photos taken.
The tuxedo kittens, who were born on April 25, 2016, were litter mates, and they all had cerebellar hypoplasia (CH), a non-progressive neurological condition that impacts balance and coordination. “The triplets were extremely charming,” remembers Kris, “and Daisy — who couldn’t walk at the time — crawled her way across the room and into my lap.”
Kris, who had recently lost her beloved 19-year-old tuxedo cat, Kitty Wampus, was instantly smitten with the trio of black and white special needs kittens who had been transported to St. Paul, Minnesota, from Arkansas.
Calvin, Daisy, and Rosie’s mom was a feral cat who most likely contracted a virus during her pregnancy — which is often how cats develop cerebellar hypoplasia in utero — and after giving birth, she made an unlikely home for herself and her babies. “The kittens were found in the wall of an office building,” explains Kris. “Luckily, the people working in that office heard the kittens in the wall and took down the wall to get them out.”
After the kittens were rescued by a woman named Sarah in Arkansas, they were transported to Feline Rescue by a woman named Linda — “I consider those two women their fairy godmothers,” says Kris — where they had their first photo shoot.
While Kris had only planned to take pictures of Daisy, Calvin, and Rosie, the sweet and friendly trio of kittens made a big impression on her. “I asked if I could foster them when I came back from a vacation,” says Kris, and on July 31, 2016, she brought the litter mates to live with her — temporarily — in her condo.
Having recently lost her cat of nearly two decades, Kris had no intention of adopting any of the kittens, but she thought that she would be able to provide the tuxedo triplets with a happy and loving home until they found their forever families. “I live in a condo that already had one level living and carpet which does help them get around,” explains Kris.
Shortly after bringing the young cats home, Kris discovered that while Calvin and Rosie had relatively mild CH, Daisy’s symptoms were considerably more severe, making it harder for her to get around. “She couldn’t walk at all without leaning up against the wall or furniture,” says Kris.
Thankfully, Kris was committed to using play therapy to help Daisy grow stronger and become more coordinated, and over time, the young black and white cat no longer needed to rely on walls or furniture for support.
As Daisy began to find it easier to navigate her foster home, Kris’s feelings for the three kittens deepened, and on September 25, 2016, she made the decision to adopt the adorable siblings. “I fell in love with them,” says Kris. “They are so sweet and charming and happy all the time! Loving them and knowing that I could provide them with a safe home helped me decide.”
Nearly two years after Calvin, Daisy, and Rosie were born, these three special needs cats are thriving despite having moderate cerebellar hypoplasia. “They all do fall down on occasion and the back end does not always go along with the front,” says Kris.
However, like typical CH cats, they refuse to let their wobbly walks keep them from getting where they want to go, including Daisy, who can’t run and jump like her siblings. “Rosie and Calvin can run and even jump,” says Kris. “Rosie is better at jumping; Calvin does a jump/climb to get where he’s going.”
Because Daisy is unable to jump and climb like her litter mates, Kris placed a set of stairs beside her bed, which this pretty black and white girl — like a typical cat — refuses to use. “The other two love using the stairs,” says Kris, “but Daisy prefers to come to the bed and meow at me to pick her up. She has me trained.”
In addition to steps, Kris has blanketed much of her home’s wood and tile floors with rugs to protect the cats when they inevitably take a spill. “Daisy and Calvin both broke teeth from falling before they turned a year old,” says Kris. “Luckily we’ve gone another year without any more broken teeth.”
To accommodate this trio of wobbly cats, their mom has also gotten a raised water dish to make it easier for them to drink, high-sided litter boxes with low entrances that allow them to do their business, and a relatively short cat tree so that they won’t fall that far if they take a tumble.
Kris also helps Daisy — the most of wobbly of the three — at meal times to make sure she gets enough food. “I sit with Daisy on the floor while she eats so she can lean up against me for support,” says Kris, “and it also keeps her siblings from stealing her food since she eats so slowly.”
Because CH cats have issues with balance coordination, Kris is diligent about keeping the trio’s litter boxes as clean as possible just in case they happen to fall over while relieving themselves. “With some adaptations to make their environment safer and easier for them to navigate, they pretty much act like ‘normal’ cats,” says Kris.
Like typical felines, these tuxedo siblings love to play, and they’re particularly partial to wand toys, and Calvin and Daisy love catnip, while Rosie is wild about treats. “Rosie is the fastest,” says Kris. “She loves to run just for the sake of running and she will sneak attack Calvin sometimes.”
While Rosie is smart and active, Calvin is the sweet and affectionate one who loves being by mom’s side. “I’m pretty sure he loves to entertain,” says Kris. “He’s a momma’s boy all the way.”
Daisy, who crawled right up to Kris as a kitten and flopped into her lap — claiming the perfect home for herself and her siblings — is like a combination of her litter mates. “Daisy is so determined and so sweet,” says Kris. “She’s the perfect mix of sweet and sassy.”
While Kris is confident Calvin, Daisy, and Rosie are incredibly happy and content, she knows that some people find it upsetting to witness their wobbly walks. “I wouldn’t wish for them to have CH,” says Kris, “but I also don’t want people to feel sorry for them.”
After all, the three of them are best friends who have been together since the day they were born, and with their mom’s help, the triplets have adapted extremely well to having cerebellar hypoplasia. “They have a wonderful life and there is no reason to feel sorry for them,” says Kris.
Rosie, Calvin, and Daisy gets tons of love and attention from their mom, and the three of them are often models for Kris, a professional photographer. “They all three usually jump in front of the camera by choice, so that is nice,” says Kris. “I try to make sure it’s always fun for them.” While Kris didn’t plan on adopting one — much less three — kittens shortly after Kitty Wampus, her cat of 19 years, passed away, she’s so thankful she offered to foster Calvin, Daisy, and Rosie in the summer of 2016.
Having lost her best friend of nearly two decades, this playful and loving trio was a welcome presence in Kris’s home, allowing her to give and receive some much-needed love and comfort. It’s been well over a year since Kris made the decision to adopt this trio of tuxedo cats, and her bond with them is as a strong as ever.
“They are such wonderful companions,” says Kris. “Calvin is my best buddy, always helping me around the house. Rosie is always the first to greet me at the door, and Daisy is content as long as she’s near me.”
While Kris absolutely adores these wobbly triplets, she’s the first to admit that cats with cerebellar hypoplasia can definitely be more work than kitties without the condition. However, after taking care of three CH cats for more than a year, Kris has found that any special accommodations Rosie, Daisy, and Calvin need pale in comparison to the seemingly endless happiness and affection they provide. “Most of us with CH kitties think that the love we get in return is more than worth the extra effort they may or may not require,” says Kris.
These three tuxedo cats, who began their lives in the walls of an office building in Arkansas, are many miles away — both figuratively and literally — from where they were found as tiny kittens. Not only do Rosie, Calvin, and Daisy have a safe home where their needs are met, no matter what they may be, they have an incredible mom who is devoted to them and they also have each other.
“They are the three best friends,” says Kris. “Seeing their love for each other is so touching. I love them to the moon and back and am grateful for every day they are in my life.”