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Penny Is Back in Foster Care, Awaiting a Diagnosis

An online fundraiser hopes to help Penny overcome undiagnosed neurological issues and a disorder that affects the back half of her body.

Phillip Mlynar  |  Jan 16th 2017


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“Penny has a patchwork past,” says her current foster parent, Anna Johnston, who’s caring for the Lynx Point Siamese for the second time in her life in a bid to raise money to get her the medical assistance she needs.

You see, Penny suffers from a series of undiagnosed neurological disorders, and also a grisly sounding disorder that’s degenerating back half of her body. This can cause her to wobble in the fashion of a cat with cerebellar hypoplasia — a condition that has been ruled out.

Hopefully, if the crowdsourced fundraiser is successful, the root of Penny’s ailments can be finally diagnosed.

First, let’s recap how Penny reached this stage.

She was originally scooped up from a hoarding situation, rescued along with two litter mates and eight older siblings.

“From what we know, Penelope did not mind the other cats, but she was an easy target to be picked on by the others,” says Anna. “Shortly before Penny turned three, she got pregnant, and one of her kittens was stillborn and the other died shortly after. Penny’s tremors reportedly got worse after the pregnancy.”

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Penny in her foster home.

When Anna stepped up and offered to foster Penny, she says the initial meeting was “love at first sight.” Well, other than the fact that Penny was “absolutely covered with fleas.”

Anna explains, “You could see the fur moving around her eyes from the fleas crawling around on her skin, and a quick brush of her fur revealed that her should-have-been-white undercoat was covered in rusty flea dirt.

“So, our first real interaction together was me giving her a bath with Dawn dish soap to kill the fleas.”

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Penny in her adopted home.

Then Penny’s other medical issues were identified. Anna says  the cat was suffering from a urinary tract infection and what she calls “coughing problems.”

“When we took Penny to the vet, we learned her breathing sounded labored,” Anna explains, “and after some exams and tests she was diagnosed with asthma.”

She adds that, at the time, they suspected Penny had a very mild form of cerebellar hypoplasia, a nonprogressive condition that impairs the balance and fine motor skills of a feline.

“Penny was a little stumbly but could use the litter box, climb to the top of furniture, and motor herself around just fine on all surfaces,” she adds.

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Penny lounges in her adopted home.

At that point, Penny left Anna’s foster care and went to a forever home with a family who were on the lookout for a special-needs cat.

Unfortunately, this didn’t pan out as planned.

“What they did not bargain for was her diminishing motor skills and recurrent UTIs, which came with inappropriate urination and incontinence,” explains Anna. “After three years, the cost of Penny’s care and level of maintenance became too much for them to handle.”

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Penny in her foster sanctuary.

So Penny found herself back in Anna’s care — and a new mission to figure out her medical conditions began.

“Penny’s motor skills and general strength and control in her back half are deteriorating,” says Anna. “She cannot climb any more than one foot off the ground, so she can’t snuggle on the sofa or beds like she used to.”

In better news, her asthma and UTIs are said to be currently “stable and under control.”

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This face means business.

So where does this leave Penny now?

Well, she has undergone an initial neurological exam, which showed “multiple areas that are neurologically abnormal, namely an area of the brain in addition to a concern for a problem in the spinal cord,” Anna says, adding that her tremors might be consistent with a “brain problem.”

The next step in Penny’s saga is to secure the funds to get a full MRI (and possibly a spinal tap).

“It is our hope that an MRI will confirm what is happening in her brain and figure out what is happening further down her spine,” says Anna. “Once we identify the cause of the problems in her back half, there may be a treatment or intervention to improve the use of her back legs and improve her mobility, strength and control.”

You can donate to Penny’s medical fund via her GoFundMe page.