ORIGIN: While picking up rescue Tetley, Kitten Lady rescued Chloe who had rear leg paralysis from suspected abuse. She was 6 weeks old, dirty, flea ridden, and could not use her rear legs at all.
JOURNEY: Chloe has quite the journey ahead of her. Kitten Lady determined she had use of her front legs, and was able to drag herself around using those. She preferred eating slurry, and was able to poop when stimulated, but she was not able to pee on her own. The day after rescue, she was taken to Nova Cat Clinic, for her first assessment.
There, X-Rays showed she had a broken back - likely from being stepped on. Her spine was crushed at the 5th, 6th, and 7th vertebrae. Consequently, her body lost some very important functions, while keeping some in tact. She can't use her legs and all, and can only drag them behind her. But, she does have a deep pain reflex (she can pull her legs away if her toes are pinched), which means she has feeling. Because she was unable to pee, her bladder was so full it was about to burst and kill her as she'd been at the shelter for two days post-injury. At Nova Cat Clinic, they pulled 80ccs of urine from her! Luckily, due to where her injury is, she was not in any pain, but unfortunately, she will have to be manually stimulated to fully express her bladder every 4-6 hours. (Check out this instructional video on how to help a paralyzed kitten pee.) She was put on a NSAID, given red light laser therapy, and requires serious neurological examination and intensive rehabilitation if there is any hope of regaining function.
TREATMENT: Chloe's next stop was her first neurology visit. There, they determined she cannot feel or use the back half of her body including her legs, tail, and bladder. They felt her case was "extreme" and her prognosis was not good in that she is unlikely to recover. While mobility is an obvious concern, the bigger immediate concern is that her bladder is very hard to manually express because the muscles of her urethral sphincter are constricted and she will need a muscle relaxer and a lot of gentle and frequent care.
There are many different approaches to a case like her's, and Kitten Lady is determined to make sure she receives every chance at recovery she can. As part of her recovery, she will receive cold laser therapy, red light laser therapy, NSAIDs, PT, Prazosin (to help her bladder relax), and acupuncture.
Another important part of Chloe's therapy is using the Assisi Loop, a medical device that has been instrumental in Lil Bub regaining her mobility. It's a device that uses pulsed electromagnetic field technology to promote healing in animals.
The science behind it is complex and fascinating. The electromagnetic field triggers the production of nitric oxide in the body, a molecule that reduces pain and inflammation, improves blood flow, reduces edema, and supports tissue regeneration. This device is suggested for inflammatory conditions, such as an injury to the spine like Chloe's.
After loads of work legs are started to move a bit, and the idea to build her a wheelchair came about. The idea was for it to be more of a assisted walking device, and less of a wheelchair to add to her physical therapy. The wheelchair was created by Preston Tobery at University of Maryland who used 3D printing to produce the device. Kitten Lady sewed the harness, and inspirational messages were embedded on her wheels.
Through the experience Kitten Lady learned that wheelchairs (while a great idea for some) are not for every cat. Though Chloe can't walk on all fours, she can still navigate her world comfortably with her front legs, and in our efforts to give her more freedom of movement we are actually asking her to become more restricted. Cats and kittens naturally want to be able to crawl, to climb, to sneak around, to fit through tight spaces, to flop on their sides--movements that cannot occur in a wheelchair.
We love the concept and design, but the truth is that it upsets Chloe to be in it because she is such an independent kitten. We will continue to offer it to her as an option every once in a while, but my impression is that Chloe prefers to adapt to life in her natural body, without added machinery. But one thing is for sure, she looked good in her colorful wheels!
ABOUT THE KITTEN: Here's the good news, Chloe has a rock star personality. She loves playing, especially trying to capture anything you dangle in front of her. She purrs loudly, and can never get enough affection. To help with her mobility, the neurologist suggested putting down a yoga mat so she'd have a grippy surface, and once those mats went down, Chloe took off! Check out this great video to see her zoom around the kitten room. Another person recommended offering Chloe a box to glide around in. She went straight to the box, got her hind legs in it, and used her front legs to drag herself around from toy to toy. Go Chloe go!
FINAL HEALTH DIAGNOSIS: In the last 3 months, Chloe has been to over 30 appointments with 5 doctors. She's been assessed by 3 neurologists, received multiple forms of PT, laser therapy, the Assisi Loop, acupuncture, and traditional medicine. She's had x-rays and blood tests, has been observed by orthopedic specialists, and all assessments of her body's condition are starting to point to one thing: permanent damage to the hind limbs and bladder, likely from a tail pull. The consensus is that Chloe has lost all sensation and proprioception of the hind limbs, and that her bladder will need to be expressed for the rest of her life. While she does have wonderful movement of her legs, it is reflexive; she is a "spinal walker" meaning her brain cannot communicate to her legs, but she has some walking-like movements that are hardwired from the spine.
One of the next assessments considered for Chloe was an MRI, however, anesthesia associated with further imaging, presents high risk with little or no likelihood of any tangible gain for Chloe; to proceed would be to put her at risk for no reason beyond scientific curiosity. Chloe's life is too precious to us and it's a risk Kitten Lady have decided not to take.
This may seem like a sad to some, and maybe everyone isn't ready to accept that Chloe is paralyzed, but please remember: Chloe isn't broken. Chloe is perfect. She has the happiest life, she is surrounded by love and toys and accommodations that make it easy for her to get around. She is happy, and the only sad thing about her life is how much we force our expectations onto her. To her, and now to us, she is already perfect.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW: Chloe headed to San Francisco to be with her forever family including her new big brother, Doogie! You can watch her new west coast adventures and grow up on her Instagram _gochloego_!