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Deformed Front Legs Can't Stop Triumph the Kitty

His condition could have been caused by prolonged confinement to a tiny cage.

 |  Dec 7th 2012  |   9 Contributions


Jennifer Alden isn’t sure what happened to Triumph’s legs. She first met the handsome, 2-year-old kitty about a month ago, after his owner surrendered him to the Humane Society. Upon noticing his oddly bent front legs, a Humane Society worker brought Triumph to Central Texas Cat Hospital in Round Rock, Texas, where Alden is the hospital manager. She knew right away that Triumph’s special needs required special attention.

The reason for Triumph’s deformity was not clear. His front paws curled permanently inward, as though he’d been sitting on top of them for an extended period of time, but X-rays revealed no breaks or other signs of injury. It appeared as though his tendons had simply shortened so that he could no longer straighten his wrists. The veterinarians who examined him speculated that this could be the result of a birth defect, prolonged confinement to a small cage, or some combination of both.

The deformity in Triumph's front legs could be due to a birth defect, prolonged confinement to a small cage, or a combination of both.

“He walks on his wrists, basically,” Alden says. “He cannot straighten his legs. If you were to turn your wrist in all the way as far as you could, that’s what his legs do permanently.”

Triumph did not have anywhere to go, so Alden decided to take him home, where he would finally have a warm bed and room to run -- as well as two new sisters, Alden’s other cats Mischief and Mayhem. Alden had initially planned to foster Triumph until other arrangements could be made, but the night she brought him home, that plan changed.

“By the end of the evening I knew I was going to have him stay,” she says. “He was a perfect fit. He just blended in so quickly." 

Triumph's X-ray showed no signs of breaks or other injuries.

This was good news for Triumph -- Alden has more than 10 years of experience as a vet tech, most recently at Austin Pets Alive!, a nonprofit that rescues high-risk animals from euthanasia at local shelters.

“Triumph is a great example of the kind of cat that would have been considered ‘at risk,’ even though his only deformity is a visually physical one,” she says. “He is an otherwise happy, healthy, playful, and thriving young male cat.”

Through splinting, massage, and physical therapy, veterinarians hope to give Triumph increased mobility and more normal use of his front legs.

And thanks to Alden's position at Central Texas Cat Hospital, Triumph has regular access to the care of Dr. Roy Smith, who owns the clinic and serves as president-elect of the American Association of Feline Practitioners. Smith and his wife, Sheila, also own and operate Shadow Cats, a nonprofit sanctuary dedicated specifically to rescuing “unadoptable” cats. Using massage, physical therapy, and gradual, gentle splinting to stretch the tendons, Alden is hopeful that Triumph will be able to overcome his disability and use his legs normally.

“He’s such a young guy, and he’s such a happy cat, and he’s super playful, and I want to give him that opportunity,” Alden says. “Definitely the main goal is to hopefully repair whatever has happened to his legs so he has more mobility, but also to make sure he’s as comfortable possible and manage any difficulties he may have down the road.”

Jennifer Alden holds Triumph while he is examined.

Alden is exploring the least-invasive treatment options first, but she has accepted that someday surgical intervention may be necessary -- or that the way he is now is just “how it’s going to be.” No matter how it shakes out, it’s just fine with Alden’s eight-year-old stepdaughter, who is madly in love with Triumph and considers him her best friend. It also seems fine with Triumph himself. 

“He gets along fantastic,” Alden says. “He runs around, and he jumps on the bed, and he plays and smacks at the other kitties in the house. He’s wonderful.”

Here's a video of Triumph playing with one of his new sisters:

His tenacious personality -- including an unusual affinity for belly rubs -- has surprised Alden, who at first believed he might be slightly feral or unable to walk due to his folded limbs.

“The story I got was that he’d possibly been sitting in a cage forever, so he was maybe not terribly socialized,” she says. “But he’s never hissed, never swatted, never pinned his ears back at me at all.”

Triumph enjoys dinner with his new siblings, Mischief and Mayhem.

Alden chooses names that describe her cats' personalities, and like her kitties Mischief and Mayhem, Triumph has fully earned his title. He has adapted to his disability, and he is a loving, playful addition to Alden’s family. Alden realized Triumph was the perfect name while she was driving him home from the vet’s office one day after splinting his legs.

“We like names that describe personality, and we couldn’t come up with something that fit for him,” she says. “Then it just hit me: He’s a total triumph. Whatever his outcome is, he has such an amazing life ahead of him. Every day he has shown me something more amazing.”

Video and photos courtesy of Jennifer Alden

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