A Disabled Cat Changed My Life


In the summer of 2007, I was taking some classes online, halfheartedly looking for work, and looking to make a few changes in my life — the problem was I had no idea what I wanted to do. So I volunteered at my local no-kill cat shelter while I figured things out.

Moki was a feral kitten who was left on the doorstep of the shelter. He couldn’t have been much older than 2 months. He was a spitting ball of fire who made his dislike of humans quite clear. I suppose it was Moki’s spirit that made me fall in love with him and take him home.

Moki adjusted well to his new temporary home and instantly took to my other cats, as they did to him. A few days later, however, Moki became ill with watery eyes, a runny nose, and what appeared to be little more than an upper respiratory infection. What we didn’t know at the time was that this was no run-of-the-mill URI, and his illness progressed. Eventually, he developed a head tremor as well. By the time Moki wound up in an ER, he had been seen by several vets, none of whom held out much hope for his survival. It seemed this would be the end of my new feral friend I had come to know and love.

Little did I know that the events that would follow Moki’s admittance would forever change his life and mine.

About a week later, Moki returned home in stable condition but with severe neurological damage. The ER vets told me that Moki would never sit up on his own, walk, or be able to eat without a plate of food being held up to his face. He had a condition called cerebellar hypoplasia, and that while he would never get any worse, he also would never get any better.

Moki, however, had other plans. Within a matter of days he was sitting up on his own, taking his first few steps, and eating from a plate on the ground. His progress wasn’t perfect, but it was much more than the vets had prepared me for. He would take a step or two, fall over, and then brush himself off and pick himself up. He was very determined, and it was clear that he had made up his mind that he was going to beat this thing.

Unfortunately, the virus was equally as determined. It returned a few weeks later, and this time it was clear that we were dealing with something more than cerebellar hypoplasia.

My vet was out of his league, and I admired him for not being afraid to say so. He suggested that we take Moki to the specialists at U.C. Davis. But I running out of cash. So I turned to the Internet for help, which is how I originally discovered Catster.

While I couldn’t find much information online about Moki’s medical condition, I did build a wonderful support system. I quickly became friends with a number of people on Catster who suggested that I take up blogging. I couldn’t help but feel that the whole thing was a long shot, but it was Moki’s only shot, so I quickly learned how to do so and set up Moki’s blog, The Wobbly Cat.

To my amazement, there was an instant outpouring of support. We received our first donation overnight — $500! I knew right then and there that we could beat this thing. With the help of bloggers and kind cat people from around the globe, we quickly raised enough money to take Moki to UC Davis so he could have an MRI and CSF tap. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, the test results came back clean, and the vets there were also baffled.

By that time we had learned how to control Moki’s virus with Tamiflu, so Moki’s neurologist and orthopedic surgeon at UC Davis decided that we should focus on the issues we could fix, like his orthopedic problems. So Moki began his first physical rehabilitation treatment.

We would later incorporate veterinary acupuncture into Moki’s medical treatments. Between the two treatments, Moki began to make some amazing progress. His head tremor went away and he could walk across carpeted rooms falling only once or twice instead of after every other step.

He slowly began to learn how to groom himself, and started to groom his own front paws. He also began making biscuits with his paws for the first time ever! These may seem like small steps, but it was clear that Moki was making progress, which continues to this day.

As for me, Moki’s journey led me to a wonderful consulting position with a fabulous nonprofit group, Scout’s Animal Rehab Therapy Fund, which underwrites the cost of small-animal physical rehabilitation for K9 unit and military dogs, service dogs, and disabled rescue and shelter animals, as well as disabled animals belonging to low-income families.

It also led me right back to Catster, where Moki’s story first appeared. So, thanks to Moki, I now have the best job in the world — not only do I get to help Moki and other disabled animals like him, I also get to share their stories with the world.

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