“The first time I saw Pippin was in a video that my mom sent me,” says Kyle Byron, talking about the kitten he would soon adopt. “He was a little ball of fluff sitting in the middle of a living room, then he put his face down on the carpet and pushed himself forward with his back legs a couple of feet before crashing into a stuffed toy.”
Those awkward yet adorable moves struck a note with Kyle. He instantly became smitten with this dinky kitten, who was born with a condition called radial hypoplasia, which affects his movement and gives him limited control of his front paws. So soon after swooning over the video, Kyle arranged to adopt Pippin from the State Road Animal Hospital in Alma, Michigan, where his mom was working.
As he recalls, “The first night home, Pippin slept on my chest the whole night.”
During Pippin’s early years, his movement issues were more pronounced — not least when it came to hopping in and out of the litter box. Gradually, though, he began to learn to take greater control of his body. For his part, Kyle devised an ingenious impromptu workout drill for Pippin that involved the use of the infamous red dot.
“I used laser pointers and other toys to give him a kind of physical therapy routine,” he recalls. “Like any kitten, Pippin couldn’t resist the red dot, so I used that as a playful way to help him learn to run, stop, turn, and so on. Other than that, he figured it all out on his own, including how to walk up and down stairs!”
As you’ll have noticed from the photos, Pippin has also mastered what you might colloquially call the art of standing up on two legs like a human. Apparently he began pulling off the move himself. Due to Pippin also having scoliosis and a short and skewed tail, Kyle says, “When he stands he can lean back on his tail a little bit for balance — it’s an amazing coincidence that his tail is perfectly shaped to help him stand!”
Since Kyle bonded with Pippin and adopted him six years ago, the kitty seems to have blossomed into a fine feline chap. Kyle describes him as bright-eyed, adventurous, and curious, and says that he’s retained the essence of his inner kitten. Pippin is also said to be quite the gentleman explorer, loving to go for walks (in a cat backpack) and even casting his eye over the local dog park on occasion.
Summing up the effect Pippin has had on his life, Kyle says, “It has been an amazing experience to help a special needs animal, and I hope more people do the same.” Then he adds a conscientious disclaimer: “There have actually been instances in the past of cats with radial hypoplasia being sold as novelty pets, so if you have the opportunity to rescue a special needs animal, make sure you are not unintentionally supporting an unethical practice.”
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