In winter of 2015, Minerva, a 4-week-old kitten, was brought to Willamette Veterinary Hospital by good samaritans. She was found on the side of the road, alone, and paralyzed in her back legs. She could not stand on her own and, in her trauma, did not retain bladder control.
Four months later, the veterinary hospital reached out to Core Paws. While the hospital was able to provide Minerva with the extensive medical care she needed, they were not equipped to adopt her out without a partner like Core Paws. We immediately reached out to our shelter and foster network to see if any of them would be able to accommodate sweet Minerva’s special needs.
Although they were at full capacity and didn’t have a foster lined up, Cat’s Cradle Rescue immediately stepped up to support Minerva. Fostering a special needs cat with no control of her bladder is not an easy task. As a result, Minerva was one of our hardest to place cases.
“[Cat’s Cradle Rescue] has always been incredibly helpful for extremely hard to place cats and wanted to give us any advice they could. They are an amazing organization that goes above and beyond for the kitties in their care.”
– Kara Hamada, Executive Director at Core Paws
Core Paws found an ‘angel foster’ – a foster that is not associated with the rescue – in Jan Asher, a retired Portlander. Jan knew that finding a foster for Minerva would be a challenge for the team. She had fostered cats extensively, but she hadn’t any experience fostering a special needs animal. Minerva’s story inspired her to give it a shot and we connected her with Cat’s Cradle Rescue.
Cat’s Cradle took on Minerva’s case, paying for all of her medical care, knowing that it could take months or years to find the right home for her. They paid for her physical therapy and other special care, like seeing a neurologist. The neurologist discovered that Minerva’s paralysis was due to trauma to the thoracic spine. This adorable young cat had been through so much but retained such a voracity for life. We knew she was determined to recover.
Jan fostered Minerva for the next 11 months. Jan kept in constant contact with both organizations, sending photos and wellness updates. Even through the abuse and subsequent paralysis, Minerva was still quite strong and was capable of pulling herself with her front legs. Jan recalls her finding ways to keep up with everything Jan’s own feline companions did. Minerva was particularly talented at climbing, and occasionally ascended her temporary siblings’ 6-foot-tall cat tree on her own!
Both Minerva’s and Jan’s greatest challenge during this time was Minerva’s bladder functionality. Minerva knew to get to the litter box, but often didn’t quite make it in time. To minimize accidents, Jan carried Minerva to and from her litter box multiple times a day. Her approach proved effective but tiresome. Jan accepted that Minerva would piddle most places but loved this sweet girl anyway.
A year had passed. Cat’s Cradle threw her a kitty birthday party. By this time, we had all learned first-hand about her sweet, calm spirit and determination to live her best life. Core Paws met Minerva, held her, and made her a promise – to do everything we could to help her find a forever family. Both Core Paws and Cat’s Cradle were still desperately searching for the right family for Minerva.
Core Paws learned about an Autologous Stem Cell Therapy via MediVet Biologics that was working miracles in animals with arthritis. It had not been done in a case like Minerva’s. The veterinary professionals said it was a 50/50 chance that it could help her bladder functionality and leg strength. Jan said, “We were told it would take months, if it worked, to take effect.” It was her last shot at a full recovery.
Cat’s Cradle decided they were going to give it to her, regardless of cost. The procedure totaled thousands of dollars. Core Paws raised $900 through our internal animal care fund, Odie’s Fund for Hard to Place Animals, to help pay for Minerva’s stem cell treatment.
Minerva received her Autologous Stem Cell Treatment at the end of October 2016 from our friends at Viking Veterinary Care, a certified fear-free veterinary hospital in Portland, Oregon. They allotted her a grant to help pay for the innovative treatment AND donated post stem cell treatment physical therapy appointments to help Minerva get the most out of her treatment.
Minerva spent several weeks living at Viking Veterinary Care post-treatment, receiving ‘round-the-clock care. She went back to Jan’s house on the weekends to take breaks and socialize. “I didn’t see any changes during the time she was with me on weekends,” said Jan. “They walked her several times a day with a sling in addition to other physical therapy. The reports they gave me when I picked her up was she was walking more upright and walking straighter. [At my house,] she would pull herself up but when she tried to walk she would fall over.”
While at Viking Veterinary Care, Minerva met someone special. Jed, a Certified Veterinary Technician for 16 years, was the “proud anesthetist for her [stem cell treatment] procedure” and fell in love with her. “I became closer to her when she would spend the week with us for [physical therapy] for several weeks. I started to spend more time working with her and getting to know that personality I always heard about.”
Upon first meeting Minerva, Jed described her as, “sweet, sassy, and packed full of energy! Nothing has changed to this day and I couldn’t be more happy. [She’s] still the same firecracker she was the first day she came in!”
Jed and his wife adopted Minerva in January 2017.
Both Jed and his wife are Certified Veterinary Technicians and know how to care for a special needs animal like Minerva. Jed shared, “I analyzed every possible angle that would allow me to adopt her, and it took months, but it all worked out.” He was particularly touched by Minerva’s spirit. “She’s incredibly motivated to live life to its fullest. Nothing stops her from trying to do anything a cat with normal hind limbs can do. She’s an inspirational feline, and I can say I have certainly learned a few things about life from her. She is such a ray of sunshine!”
Jed is happy to share that Minerva’s physical therapy is going well. He is considering a second Stem Cell Therapy treatment, but until then he is treating her with Class IV Laser therapy to help any discomfort she may experience. He began expressing Minerva’s bladder, and it has actually helped her regain control of her bladder along with the stem cell treatment. He’s proud to say that she’s using the litter box again full-time! When walking with a sling, Minerva now only requires about half the help she needed before treatment and physical therapy. Her most recent win is taking five whole steps on her own! Great job, Minerva!
Jed wants everyone who is considering adopting a special needs animal like Minerva to know that research and reaching out to professionals is absolutely required prior to adoption.
“Make sure you are prepared. Research every possible aspect that relates to the problem the animal has. Try to make a financial plan as changes with certain conditions can happen suddenly. Call veterinary clinics and speak with technicians. You would be surprised how many of them would be more than happy to help.”
– Jed, Certified Veterinary Technician & Minerva’s Adopter
The team at Core Paws wishes Minerva, Jed, and the rest of her forever family the best! We know you will take care of one another, love one and another, and that your lives have forever changed for the better. We also want to thank Jan for her selfless care of sweet Minerva. Without Jan, Minerva may have never met Jed and her forever family. Minerva’s success is Jan’s, too.
If you would like to explore adopting a special needs animal, check out Core Paws’ Special Needs Adoptable Animals. If you would like to help animals like Minerva find the treatment and forever home they need, consider making a tax-deductible donation to Core Paws.
Written by Aascot Bohlander, Content & Email Marketing Manager of Core Paws