How Buttons the Cat, Paralyzed and Headed for Death Row, Found a Home


Have you ever known someone who has gone above and beyond so a special-needs cat could have the best life possible?

This is the story of Buttons and his person Becca. Buttons could have easily been put down because of an accident that left him paralyzed in the back legs. Instead, Becca stepped in, took care of Buttons, and has made his care an easy and daily part of her life.

Buttons is an (almost) five-year-old gray striped male tabby with beautiful green eyes. Becca says that Buttons has a positive “can-do” attitude and never lets anything get him down.

An accident in a door almost meant euthanasia

Becca first met Buttons through her work as a vet tech. A few years ago, Dr. Ellen Jefferson, the executive director of Austin Pets Alive! was treating some animals at the clinic where Becca worked. The doctor mentioned that she needed a temporary foster for a new kitten APA had just picked up. The kitten had been dropped off at the shelter for euthanasia because he had gotten stuck in a door jamb when a door was closing and now couldn’t use his back legs.

APA was hoping with some medication the paralysis would be temporary. Jefferson was worried because the kitten (Buttons) needed some intense care due to severe diarrhea. The vet was unsure whether the foster she had arranged was up to the meds and cleanup.

Becca agreed to take Buttons for a few days until his diarrhea cleared up. After a few days, Buttons was able to go to the foster’s house but he ended up being a little more special-needs than they had anticipated. Becca stepped in and told Jefferson she’d take Buttons back. She took him to physical therapy a couple of times a week for a few months, but he never regained the use of his legs.

Buttons needs daily care and attention

Buttons cannot walk and he cannot express his bladder. Becca expresses his bladder a few times a day, but keeps a diaper on him for extra safety. He also gets bathed to stay clean, and Becca thinks Buttons is the only cat she’s met who doesn’t mind a daily bath.

Becca says that when most people first hear about Buttons, they “look at me like I’m crazy, but really, he’s such a great cat. I can’t imagine my life without him.” Buttons doesn’t let his disability stop him. He plays with the other cats, crawls, hunts bugs, loves a crinkle ball, begs for food … typical happy cat behavior. Becca tries to be extra sensitive to Buttons’ needs.

Becca even made Buttons special overalls so his legs would stay warm in the winter and so he wouldn’t hurt his skin. Buttons gets glucosamine/chondroitin and fish oil daily for his joints. He takes a daily urethral muscle relaxer. And Becca has built ramps in the house so Buttons can crawl up them and look out the windows.

Advice for others with special needs cats

Becca is very committed to Buttons’ care, and she also seems to have easily incorporated the responsibilities into her life. “I wouldn’t say my life has changed a lot, I just have a few extra responsibilities in the morning.” She makes sure she has enough time to change his diaper, express his bladder, or give him a quick bath if he needs to be cleaned up.

For those considering a special-needs cat, Becca advises that people go into this clearly understanding what the special-needs care will entail. She says she’s lucky to have a very supportive husband who helps out with Buttons. Keep others in the household aware of things that night need to change for the cat. Ask questions and take advantage of the resources for people with special needs animals — social media, rescue groups, veterinarians, sites like Catster, etc.

A great life together

Buttons seems undisturbed about the paralysis in his rear legs and doesn’t seem to realize he’s different than the other cats. He enjoys playing with his house cat-mates. He loves to snuggle under the covers with Becca every night and always puts a paw on her arm.

What inspired me most about interviewing Becca was her easygoing approach to something that others may have resisted. She simply incorporated Buttons’ care into her life, and it really doesn’t sound as if it’s a hardship for her or Buttons. As a result, this young and otherwise healthy cat has a good, enthusiastic life. He’s a very happy kitty and never acts uncomfortable.

Do you have experience with special needs cats? Do you have any tips you want to share? Share your thoughts in comments below.

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About Catherine Holm: Told that she is funny but doesn’t know it, accused of being an unintentional con artist by her husband, quiet, with frequent unannounced bursts into dancing liveliness, Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of a short story collection about people and place. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.

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