Don’t tell Bailey Maitland that disabled pets are unwanted. The recent college graduate recently drove nine hours from her home near Toronto to Ringoes, NJ, to adopt D’Artagnan, a handsome gray cat who loves to climb and play. He also happens to be paraplegic.
D’Art was paralyzed when he was hit by a car as a kitten. He had been living at Tabby’s Place, a shelter that specializes in rescuing cats from hopeless situations. Catster first met the tenacious cat and his best friend, Dot, a paraplegic brown tabby with spina bifida, last September.
Angela Townsend, development director at Tabby’s Place, assumed D’Art would be a permanent resident at the shelter.
"It takes a very special person to adopt a cat who is incontinent and needs round-the-clock care, but the world is full of special people," Townsend says. "And just when we think a cat is going to be a lifer, along comes that person — it’s like they’ve been waiting all their life for this cat."
Turns out Maitland was that special person. She heard about D’Art on Catster while searching for resources to care for her other cat, Princess, who is also paraplegic.
Yes, that’s right — Maitland has two paraplegic cats. About a year ago, she found Princess in a parking lot when the cat was only 8 weeks old. Maitland took the kitten to the vet and found out she weighed less than a pound and would never walk. Maitland was still a college student, but she made the commitment to care for Princess.
"I instantly decided to keep her no matter what anybody said," Maitland says. "The vet was telling me to put her down. I was looking for resources, and somebody said I should check out Tabby’s Place, because they cater to disabled cats and might be able to help me. I came across D’Artagnan, and from that point forward I kept my eye on him and fell in love with him."
Maitland’s parents said she shouldn’t adopt D’Art because she was still in school and already had one disabled cat. But she was determined to get him as soon as she moved out. And she was true to her word: As soon as she was done with school, she drove nine hours to Tabby’s Place and picked up D’Art.
And what about Dot, D’Art’s friend at Tabby’s Place? Well, Maitland wanted her, too.
"I wanted all my kittens to meet so they could have ‘drag’ races, since they’re all paraplegic," she jokes.
Dot, however, requires more intensive care due to her spina bifida. Maitland has limited resources, so she believed Dot would receive better care if she remained at Tabby’s Place.
Though Dot was staying behind, the staff at Tabby’s Place was thrilled to see D’Art find his forever home. They gave Maitland a warm welcome — and sent her home with a gift basket that "they said would last him a lifetime, but it’s really enough to last all nine of his lives," she says.
"It was very surreal at first," she adds. "I couldn’t believe it was actually happening. Everyone was so welcoming — they said they had been looking out the front door all day to see if the cars had an Ontario license plate."
Now that she’s got D’Art at home, he and Princess are adjusting to one another and finally starting to play together instead of merely tolerating one another. Follow Princess’ and D’Art’s journey on Facebook here. Maitland is also getting used to people’s reactions to the news that she has not one, but two paraplegic cats. Some people look at her like she’s crazy. Others are more supportive.
"I was at the airport, and some guy was looking at the cat, and he said, ‘Hats off to you — there aren’t a lot of people like you in the world who would do this,’" she says.
Maitland’s boyfriend is also adjusting to living with the cats in the new apartment he shares with Maitland.
"When Tabby’s Place did a reference check with him, he told them that I love the cats more than I love him," Maitland says. "I don’t think he loves them quite as much as I do, but he has definitely taken a liking to them."
Despite what anyone says, Maitland insists that caring for D’Art and Princess is not much more work than any other cat. She has to express their bladders three times a day, but she likens it to changing a litter box for a picky able-bodied cat. She also gives D’Art and Princess daily massages and physiotherapy, which she says is no different than the time average cat owners spend playing with their pets.
And what she gets in return, she says, is perfect pets — "they can’t climb on the counters and get into your food and eat your flowers," she jokes.
"I don’t know if there’s anything more than unconditional love, but that’s what I feel from them," she adds. "They need you to do everything for them, so there’s definitely a sense of pride I have taking care of them and telling people about them."
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