Lincoln: Qadrapelegic Kitten Learns to Walk
Lincoln was completely immobile when Tenth Life foster coordinator Bobbi Hale first saw him on August 18. With the help of Bobbi and her husband and the therapy program they devised for him, Lincoln was able to walk, play with toys and even run in short spurts within ten days. While his movements are wobbly and the activities exhaust him, Tenth Life is celebrating the fact that he can move.
Not long ago, most kittens like Lincoln would not have been given a chance. He lives in a era with greater acceptance of special needs pets, and new and better ways to help them.In the words of the rescue’s director, “Miracles happen at Tenth Life”.
Here’s the photo she sent of him:
When our foster coordinator, Bobbi Hale, arrived at the rescuer’s home, she felt disheartened. She anticipated finding a kitty with broken legs, but one who still had some interest in moving about. However, the kitten she found was in a pitiful state; lying on his side, completely immobile. Luckily for this little guy, Tenth Life doesn’t give up hope until we’ve tried everything we can.
So Bobbi whisked Lincoln immediately to the vet. She had already decided on his name after a trip through Springfield, IL, where she was reminded not only about the former president’s amazing life and contributions, but also his love for felines.
At the veterinary clinic, Lincoln was examined and x-rayed, but the results were inconclusive. Our doctor believed his injury was either spinal or neurological, and only time would reveal his long-term prognosis.
Bobbi was instructed to lead Lincoln through exercises 2-3 times per day. But Bobbi and her partner, John, were determined to give the kitten the best possible chance of recovery, so they committed to 6 daily sessions of therapy.
This was Lincoln, the day after he arrived in our care, unable to move:
At first, Lincoln could only lift up his head to follow movement that interested him, and he had only showed movement in his legs when they were gently tugged and stretched. Lincoln’s rear legs seemed stuck in a fully extended position, while his front legs stayed tightly retracted, and the front half of his body was bent over in a ball shape. He lacked strength in his muscles and could not sit up, let alone move himself.
In an attempt to build Lincoln’s muscle strength, Bobbi and John crafted what they’ve dubbed Lincoln’s “chair”: a cat bed with puppy pad (in case of accidents) and rolled towels on either side. The chair allowed Lincoln to place and keep his back and front legs in a normal sitting position. Sitting this way would also aid Lincoln in regaining proper equilibrium.
See the chair in this video of Lincoln’s first steps:
The first sign of progress was a small one. Bobbi wrote on Aug. 20, “last night, after two physical therapy rounds when we had him in his “chair,” I was stroking down his back. At one point his front toes/claws stretched out. It was only once but it was the first sign of anything in those front legs at all, save for when a pinch test was being done [at the vet clinic]. Also, John texted me that today in his chair he is using his back feet and head to inch forward in that bed, so we’ve already seen tiny (which is actually huge for him) signs of something in the 24 hours we’ve been working with him.”
The next day, Bobbi noticed that Lincoln’s front paws were wobbly sitting, but he actually picked up each front paw to take a step. She said, “he’s determined, we’re determined… he will be mobile.”
The following day Lincoln put weight on his front left leg to support/balance himself and he tried again to stand. He even took some steps with the support of his chair.
Bobbi and John continued using Lincoln’s “chair,” and worked through his therapy exercises 5-6 times daily. The chair served the little kitten similarly to parallel bars for people receiving physical therapy for paralysis.
Before long, Lincoln was making huge strides in his movement. See the remaining videos:
Batting at a toy:
I (Elizabeth) asked Bobbi what she thought was the reason behind his quick progress, and this was her reply:
8/23 – I honestly think it’s a combination of things that’s helping him. Had he been paralyzed from a severed spinal cord, we obviously wouldn’t be seeing this kind of improvement. But considering he was limp and completely immobile with all four legs only 3 days ago, it’s pretty amazing. Especially, considering the vet said that she honestly didn’t know whether the physical therapy would do anything; that it was a wait and see kind of thing.
This is what I can only theorize is happening and helping him.
1) The therapy itself: I think the therapy itself is *definitely* helping. His little limbs were not only immobile on Monday, but they were pretty tight and stiff (a little atrophied even). I think the stretching and pumping is helping loosen up those muscles and keeps them warm and not tightened up in the same position. Also the little “chair” we made for him might have been the best idea I came up with. It helps keep him in that normal sitting/laying position and propped up from lying on his side. It strengthens the muscles by having more weight on those limbs like normal than when on his side. It also helps his equilibrium.
2) His will: I think him wanting to walk and explore and play has a lot to do with it as well. If he were resigned to being immobile, he probably wouldn’t be having as much progress, if any, the way that he has. When you wiggle your finger and move it around, he follows it with his eyes in a way that you can tell he *REALLLLLY* wanted to grab it and play. The same thing when he fights to get up despite wobbling. A lot of that is his sheer determination. I give him a lot of credit for just being the determined amazing little kitty that he is.
3) Support from us: I think the amount and kind of attention we give him plays into it. If he were in a different environment, whether that is laying out on the sidewalk or in a home where they let him lay on his side all the time, I think he would be in the same state that he was on Monday (if not worse).
Since Monday night, the only time we’ve just let him lay in his crate or on his side is when we’re sleeping. During our waking hours, we’ve had him in his chair next to us (minus when we’re actually holding and cuddling him). We are really vocal with praise (and pets and kisses) when he does anything mobile. When he flexed open his front paws once while stroking down his back, he was praised…when he tries raising himself up, he gets praised…when he wobbles out a step, he gets praised…when he licks his paws to clean them, he gets praised. And I think that he feels and recognizes that praise and support, sometimes with a meow in response, sometimes with a purr, sometimes by taking a step towards us.
It’s still obviously going to take some time before he’s 100% or even close as he tires out after playing for a minute or taking steps for a minute, but each day we are seeing more and more improvement from him and building up what he can do, how much he can do and for how long and we’ll keep doing everything that we currently are until he gets there.
For other stories featuring the work of Tenth Life Cat Rescue at our site, click HERE.
Tenth Life Cat Rescue saves stray cats & kittens in the St. Louis area, giving priority to those with special needs or medical conditions. They save cats from the dangers of street life and place them in foster homes until they are adopted, while networking with other local rescues and veterinarians to locate and treat special needs and other stray cats who would otherwise be euthanized. Tenth Life also takes kittens from other areas, under special conditions.
You can follow them on Facebook and at Twitter: @tenthlifecats.