My Disabled Kitty, Lord Nibbler, Is a Hot Mess


Reading the story about Little Bear, a rescue cat with deformed legs, inspired me to share the story of our newest family member, Lord Nibbler. Let me start by saying this: I couldn’t picture myself ever voluntarily going to a shelter and adopting a cat like Nibbler. I mean, I always wanted a gray cat — a short-haired gray cat with big yellow eyes. Instead, I have Nibbler. Or maybe Nibbler has me.

According to our vet, Nibbler is about eight months old. He’s also a bit of a mess, and I don’t mean just his personality. Nibbler is, quite possibly, the result of inbreeding. He has a host of issues, the most obvious of which would be his two front paws. They are contracted at odd angles, something the Internet typically labels “tendon contractures,” but it may very well be the same condition that Little Bear has.

Nibbler came to live with us at seven months of age, and his anatomy had already developed enough that his legs would have to be broken to even begin to attempt correction. Considering his health, age, and mobility, the vet and I did not think surgery would be a good idea.

Nibbler also has scoliosis, which results in a short, twisted tail that he often wags like a dog when he is happy. The scoliosis and deformed legs result in him ambulating like a rabbit, often hopping around on his back legs. He’ll also engage one or both of his front paws in a slightly antalgic gait.

Surprising or not, he cannot meow like our other cats. He makes almost a peeping-purring noise (imagine a baby Wookiee) or he screams like a rabbit. In fact, he has so many rabbitlike traits that we have begun jokingly referring to Nibbler as a “cabbit,” or a cat-rabbit hybrid. Designer breeds? So last year. Cabbits are the new designer species!

The vet gave Nibbler a mostly clean bill of health — he’s FIV/FELV negative, heartworm negative, and a healthy weight. That said, he did have a severe case of tapeworms and signs that he once had a severe flea infestation. (When he came into our house, the first thing I did was bathe him and administer flea meds.) He had patches that were almost bald, as well as those raised bumps that appear when many fleas get on an animal. His skin was also very tough — a sign of living outside and possible dehydration, according to my vet.

Nibbler is certainly a hot mess, but what struck me about him is that he’s a survivor. He doesn’t feel sorry for himself. He also doesn’t play the victim or the unsung hero. He’s just a cat. He eats, he plays, and he sleeps. He’s incredibly sweet and social, which was honestly a surprise. I expected some sort of feral outburst any minute! He quickly adjusted to our two dogs and two other cats. Heck, he’s even adjusted to walking on a leash (when it’s going in the direction he wants to go).

He’s taught me one of life’s great lessons: Keep calm and carry on. We cannot waste time pining over the past or worrying about the future. We cannot feel sorry for ourselves. Whatever life throws at you, you can work through it. You can face the day with a smile, not because you necessarily feel like it, but because you know you can.

I never thought I’d have a disabled pet in my life. If only I could get Nibbler to use the litter box, everything would be peachy! I’ve tried pan, round, and covered boxes. Boxes with steps, boxes without steps, you name it. Suggestions are welcome!

My husband has modified a litter box so that it’s easier for Nibbler to get in and out, but it’s still no good. Nibbler still prefers to poop behind the toilet, right next to the baseboard. I think he takes pleasure in watching me clean the tiny crack between the floor and the baseboard with Q-tips. He plans that, I’m telling you!

Got a Cathouse Confessional to share?

We’re looking for purrsonal stories from our readers about life with their cats. E-mail — we want to hear from you!

Like reading about plucky kitties with disabilities? Check out these articles:

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