Just like any two cats in love, Dot and D’Artagnan are inseparable. At first Dot wasn’t sure what to make of the gray kitten who followed her everywhere, but now these best friends spend their days lounging, playing, and chasing each other up and down a 7-foot cat tree.
One other thing D’Artagnan (Dart for short) and Dot have in common: Both are paraplegics. Dot was born with spina bifida, leaving her back legs paralyzed. Dart, meanwhile, lost the use of his back legs when he was hit by a car. One of his front legs was also broken in the accident.
Luckily a kindhearted woman found the banged-up kitten on the side of the road and took him to see a vet. The prognosis was grim.
"The vet pretty much immediately said, ‘Oh, what kind of life is he going to have? We should put him down right now,’" says Angela Townsend, development director at Tabby’s Place, the sanctuary in Ringoes, New Jersey, where Dot and Dart now reside. (Tabby’s Place is also on Facebook.) "And she just couldn’t do it, because she saw the spark in him."
Here’s a video of Dart and Dot when they first met:
For nine years, Tabby’s Place has been rescuing kitties from hopeless situations, typically those who have reached the end of the line at shelters. With a maximum capacity of 125 cats, Tabby’s Place has a nationwide wait list hundreds deep. They normally would have been forced to turn D’Artagnan away.
But in this particular instance, the stars aligned. Just a few months earlier, Tabby’s Place had received a "very unusual" grant from the Paws and Claws Society, an animal welfare nonprofit in Thorofare, New Jersey. The grant "was specifically for us to take a cat who was in extraordinary need," Townsend says.
"So as soon as we got this phone call [about Dart], we all looked at each other and we were like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is our cat.’ It was kind of a miracle in the making there.”
Even though Dart would never walk or use a litter box and would require continuous care, Townsend and the Tabby’s Place crew were certain he could have a good life at the sanctuary. And from the outset, Dart agreed. Even when he could only move one leg and was obviously in pain, he would play, chirp, and reach out for affection. Because he was only a few weeks old when he was injured, his broken front leg healed within a couple of weeks, and since then he has been gaining strength ÔÇô- and impressing everyone with his infectious tenacity.
"A veterinary professional believed there was no reason he should have a good life," Townsend says. "And D’Artagnan never got that memo. There has never been a minute when D’Artagnan did not want to live."
Tabby’s Place provides a lifetime home for cats like Dart and Dot, who require extra care and might not do well in a traditional family. But all of the cats at Tabby’s Place are available for adoption, and Townsend’s experience has shown that sometimes the perfect family will come along when she least expects it.
"It takes a very special person to adopt a cat who is incontinent and needs round-the-clock care, but the world is full of special people," Townsend says. "And just when we think a cat is going to be a lifer, along comes that person — it’s like they’ve been waiting all their life for this cat."
Case in point: Last January, two paraplegic cats were adopted together by the same family. One was Tashi, who couldn’t walk due to a birth defect, and the other was Gabriella, who had the worst case of cerebellar hypoplasia Townsend had ever seen. She thought they both would be at Tabby’s Place forever.
"But an amazing family who had a few little boys came in, and the whole family ÔÇô- grandparents, parents, and kids -ÔÇô just completely fell in love with these two cats and have adopted them," she says. "So that was kind of the ultimate proof that there is no such thing as unadoptable."
Many people who visit Tabby’s Place fall in love with the cats but are unequipped to care for them at home, so the sanctuary offers "virtual adoptions where you can adopt a kitty like Dot or D’Artagnan across the miles." In exchange for a monthly donation that helps cover expensive specialty care, virtual adopters receive updates and photos of their special kitty.
And videos like this one depicting Dot’s first epic journey up the cat tree:
"They’re part of your family even if you can’t physically care for them," Townsend says. "And they have sponsors from all over the world. Tashi had sponsors on three continents."
This type of love and care is what will help Dart continue to recover. He is now 16 weeks old, and as he continues to grow, he will have physical therapy to strengthen his core so he can eventually be fitted for wheels and have more mobility the way his best friend Dot does. Townsend says the ultimate goal is for Dart to have as full and happy a life as possible ÔÇô- "which we have no fears about, because that’s clearly his mission as well."
Photos of D’Artagnan by Denise Jeffries; photo of baby Dot by Genevieve Dietrich; photo of Dot on wheels by Danielle Rice.
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