Picture a cat with a posture similar to a squirrel or a kangaroo. That's what the folks at a Kansas City no-kill shelter have on their hands. They've named the sweet stray kitten Stiles.
"This is very rare," said Wayside Waifs veterinarian Alison Liu. "None of the vets here at Wayside Waifs have ever seen this condition. I've also consulted with a special surgeon who sees a lot of orthopedic cases and she's been in practice for about 10 years and she's never seen one."
Stiles has only a stump for one of his two forearm bones, the radial bone, and only a stump for one of his two wrist bones. Some call cats like him "twisty cats," because of how their front paws twist inward. Others call them "squittens," because of how their standing posture resembles a squirrel.
"It's a congenital abnormality, meaning he was born like that," Liu said.
Stiles is also polydactyl, a more common condition of having extra toes. Stiles has six toes and pads on his hind legs, making them look a little like a duck's feet.
It's undeniably cute to watch him stand like a kangaroo, but when he walks, he uses his wrists and has trouble with gaining traction. It's a situation that can cause pain and ulcerations.
As a result, Wayside Waifs has turned to a volunteer group called Leggings for Life. Participants crochet leggings for dogs and cats with leg problems. The group says the leggings are often more comfortable and more practical than the usual solution of medical tape. They are easier to put on, they breathe and provide traction.
Liu said the staff will be monitoring Stiles closely after the leggings arrive to see if he tries to eat them, which could cause more harm than good.
"Some cats like to eat yarn," Liu said. "The yarn can cause lots of stomach problems."
Stiles stands out not just for his condition but for his demeanor.
Once he recovers from an upper respiratory infection, he can be adopted.
"Stiles is actually one of the most affectionate cats that we have here and is a staff and volunteer favorite," she said. "So he's going to continue to give a family lots and lots of love."
To ensure a good quality of life for him, his adoptive family will likely have to make some minor accommodations in the home, such as carpeting for traction. Regular veterinary check ups will also be especially important since he is prone to arthritis and back strain. For now, however, he seems to have no discomfort and loves being held.
To read more about Leggings for Life and help use your skills with yarn to help animals in need, click here.
Leggings for Life is looking for those willing to crochet in other countries. All the group's work is done via the internet.
Click here to go to Wayside Waifs' website.
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