Pauline Wall moved from England to Philadelphia with her husband two and a half years ago, and like millions of other Americans, she struggled to find work. Instead of letting it get her down, she decided to volunteer at the Philadelphia Animal Wellness Society (PAWS), her local animal shelter.
“I’ve decided to spend my time with the animals,” she says. “We’ve always been animal lovers, and our pets have always been secondhand, so to speak — a rescue or an informal rescue, anything like that.”
Pauline’s decision to volunteer as a foster for PAWS, as well as the Animal Care and Control Team of Philadelphia and Red Paw Emergency Relief Team, came on the heels of the loss of the Walls’ dog of 15 years. Their landlord in Philadelphia would not allow them to have dogs — but they could have cats. The decision to invite a new species into their home did not come without a certain amount of anxiety.
“We were pretty bereft without our dog,” she says. “Neither of us had had cats since we were kids, so we had no idea what to do.”
But the couple caught on quickly. Pauline started fostering litters of kittens — including the moms, who “do all of the hard work” — and she quickly discovered the joy of nursing sick kittens back to health and placing them with forever families. Since 2011, she and her husband have fostered hundreds of kittens.
“I always make sure to take a photo of adoption day,” she says. “Everyone’s face is just ear-to-ear grins. And you think, wow, this is hopefully a family that’s going to be together for the next 15 years.”
But there have been challenges to fostering as well, particularly when kittens become ill and do not make it. Pauline is currently fostering a kitten who was diagnosed with feline panleukopenia, and “it’s not good — but we’re doing everything we can.”
It can also be challenging to find homes for certain cats. Pauline currently has a “big, fat, black foster cat who doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.”
“He has litter box issues, in that he doesn’t like using them,” she says. “But he’s more than happy to use a puppy training pad. It’s just that not everyone is happy with doing that. He’s still available for adoption, but it’s not looking real good for him.”
Then there’s Ted. Named after American Alpine skier Ted Ligety, the kitten came to Pauline from another foster after developing an eye infection that required medication multiple times a day. Ted’s previous foster worked long hours and could not administer the meds as necessary, so Pauline took the wayward kitten in.
This meant separating Ted from her mother, which was fine, as the kitten was already eating solid foods. Nonetheless, Ted might have been weaned a bit early — so Pauline took a risk and introduced Ted to the mother of the other litter of kittens she was fostering.
“The new mom was a ginger female cat,” Pauline says. “Mama hissed at her for the first half hour. Then Mama worked out that this little thing needed help and started grooming her and accepting her. It was so beautiful. Then Ted nursed. She had a new family.”
Here’s a video of Ted meeting her new mama for the first time.
Ted might have found acceptance with her adoptive litter, but it was becoming apparent that the issue with her eyes was not due to a mere upper respiratory infection. A visit to an ophthalmologist revealed that Ted had symblepharon, which was causing her eyelids to fuse to her eyes. Ted was not in pain, but her vision was extremely limited. Due to her fused eyelids and the resulting scar tissue, the kitten could likely only make out flashes of light and dark. Her eyes also appeared cloudy, which many potential adopters found unappealing.
“Mama went off to be adopted, and all the others were adopted, so that’s left Ted,” Pauline says.
Despite Ted’s unusual appearance, Pauline says this special-needs kitten is just like any other cat. Vets have recommended possible surgery to fix Ted’s eyelids or possibly remove her eyes altogether, but with the former there is the possibility that her eyelids could re-fuse, and the latter would be purely cosmetic. In any case, Pauline thinks Ted is fantastic just the way she is.
“I wouldn’t even say she’s special-needs,” Pauline says. “There’s nothing that holds her back.”
Ted is currently looking for her forever family — and PAWS is willing to offer the adopter surgery to either fix the symblepharon or have Ted’s eyes removed. It is up to her final home to decide the course of treatment. Anyone in the Philadelphia area interested in learning more about Ted can get in touch with Pauline via Facebook at Adopt a Philly Kitty.
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