Why Charlie? There are a ton of kitties who cross my path. A kitty needing a home is no new thing, and there seems to be so many more cats who need home than dogs (if you can even imagine that). I met Charlie, and he is so sweet, so resilient, so amazing.. I knew in my heart the first time I met him, that if someone has a heart large enough for a special needs cat, they will thank the day someone helped them find Charlie.
Charlie and his siblings were scooped up by a woman named Terri. Terri does trap & release for feral cats. Trap & release is an amazing undertaking, costing a lot of money, time, and emotional sacrifice. These people save the lives of *countless* cats, as they keep feral populations down. When kittens are rescued during this, they are often taken in to be socialized and adopted into loving homes. Charlie's story was going to be no different.
Terri socialized the kittens for a while, and she did an amazing job. Not only is Charlie *not* feral, he is more affectionate and loving than most cats you'll meet. Her next step was to get Charlie neutered, so he could be put up for adoption. Charlie sounded congested; the veterinarian put him on anti-biotics, but nothing changed. He wheezed and it sounded like it took effort for him to breathe. Before he could be anesthetized for a neuter, Terri needed to find out what was going on with the poor guy.
Charlie was brought to a lung & heart specialist. No small financial feat for a rescuer. It was easy to assume perhaps he had asthma, as many kitties do. After an initial consultation and an echocardiogram, it didn't help. We still didn't know what was wrong: he didn't have asthma. Lucky for Charlie, the very next week the specialist's office was having *another* specialist visiting and seeing patients for a day. This doctor was the expert's expert in lung conditions. It was soon discovered that Charlie had laryngeal paralysis.
Paralysis of the Larynx occurs in both dogs and cats. The larynx is commonly referred to as the "voice box" and it is just above the trachea, the "wind pipe". Made of cartilage, it aids in breathing, sound production, and prevention of aspiration "breathing in" of liquids and foods. Surgery is the only way to correct this. Without too many boring details, the surgeon essentially "ties back" a structure, allowing the paralyzed parts to stay somewhat fixed open so the animal can regain somewhat normal function.
In Charlie went, getting his much-needed surgery. I wish you could have seen him. Immediately after surgery, still groggy, he was as friendly as the day is long. In recovery, he would purr and ask me for more scratches. Hard enough, finding a home. Now he will have to find an owner who is smart enough to realize that his challenges have made him that much more amazing. He went through all this surgery, and is still in recovery, and maintains the best attitude. What an amazing little boy.
He is still a kitten, and has been through a lot. While under, they also did his neuter. He has some weeks of recovery, but then he will need to find his forever home. Terri saves a lot of lives, and while she has taken on the challenge of nursing him through all this, the sooner Charlie can be adopted, the sooner she can take all that special time she is giving him, and she can give it to continuing to save more lives.
So what does it mean, to adopt a kitty like this? Because of his surgery, he will always need some special considerations. The real one, is just that now it may be easier for him to aspirate (breathe in) his fluids and foods. Charlie will need to be feed in more of an upright position for his life. They make special chairs for the dogs with this condition. Lucky for Charlie, he is so sweet that I doubt this will be met with much resistance, especially when he gets used to it. I imagine scooping him up for a cuddle, stretching him up towards me, and taking aside 10 minutes twice a day to feed him. Any other special considerations and needs would be best explained by a veterinarian.
When I think of special needs animals, I always think: Why wouldn't someone? When we adopt perfectly healthy animals, it is incorrect, naive, and unfair to assume they will always be thus. If we are true animal-lovers, we must anticipate their changing medical needs. Sure, Charlie is starting off sooner than later, but he will be worth it. I think the testament of a true animal lover, is admitting you are willing and able to support special needs; one day, all our geriatric pets will be one.
If you are interested in learning more about Charlie, you can email Terri at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also email me at email@example.com, and I can give you her telephone number. Terri was kind enough to let me share his story, and I hope everyone who reads this can cross-post and forward to all the animal lovers you know in the Denver area.
Sweet Charlie right after surgery. The yellow at his neck is just iodine, and his wrapped paw is merely his catheter. Look at those eyes!
One day after surgery. Snuggling and being amazing. The red is just the wrap from removing his catheter.