Bod was taken in by Cat Welfare Luton at eight weeks old after he was sadly found abandoned with his mother at the side of the road.
Bod’s back legs were splaying outwards instead of down and his little paws were also facing the wrong way (outwards). Not being able to get himself in the right position to squeeze his bladder sadly also left Bod incontinent. These are all clear signs that he’s got a rare congenital condition called Swimmer’s Syndrome.
All cats and dogs are born with their back legs pointing slightly outwards and they cannot walk because they haven’t yet developed adductor muscles (muscles which bring the thighs together – these are the ones that help us humans cross our legs).
This means that carers can’t usually see that there’s a problem until the kittens start developing the muscles they need to walk at around two to three weeks old. As soon as they start trying to walk, it’s usually fairly evident if there’s a problem.
Early intervention is absolutely critical for successful treatment of Swimmer’s Syndrome, and many puppies and kittens return to full mobility providing it is caught early.
Unfortunately, time has been against Bod. Given that his treatment didn’t start until he was around eight weeks old, the soft tissue in his back legs (which should help him straighten his legs, stand and walk) was already short, tight and difficult to train into the correct position.
Bod came to stay with us at The Ralph for an intense course of physiotherapy with our Physiotherapist, Kim.
Kim performed tailored exercises on Bod and handmade various splints, supports and a wheel cart for him. An important step was to tape Bod’s legs overnight – one night to stretch them straight and the next to stretch them in a bent position. He was very tolerant and playful with and without the supports!
Here he is playing in his wheel cart in our physiotherapy room with Vet Nurse, Louise:
Luckily, Bod is otherwise perfectly healthy. Inevitably all of Team Ralph fell increasingly in love with him as the days went on, and it was so lovely to see him get more confident in his affection as well as treatment.
No one fell quite as in love with Bod as Kim herself, so much so that she ended up taking the little guy home…
“From the first time I saw Bod, it was obvious he was a fighter. He was so tiny, could fit in the palm of my hand, and was completely adorable. I’m a bit of a sucker for cats anyway, but Bod has absolutely no idea there is a single thing wrong with him and is such a funny little character, I stood no chance!
Bod was progressing, but it became obvious that if I was going to get him walking again, it was going to take some time. This, plus his cuteness won me over and I knew I wanted to adopt him – as long as my other two cats agreed.
I took him home for a weekend to see how they would cope. Jess, my 17-year-old lady, had a sniff and then walked away. She has lived with cats all her life, so I didn’t think she would mind too much. My worry was my other cat, Tom. Tom is around 2 years old and he adopted me just before lockdown. He turned up in my garden as a stray, and once I’d found out he didn’t have a microchip, we made friends and he adapted to life as a house cat very quickly! But, I wasn’t sure how he would respond to a kitten in his new home. I did not need to worry, Tom has adopted Bod as his little brother and now they are either grooming each other, play fighting or sleeping next to each other.
Bod lets nothing stop him, he’s a real climber, he goes higher up the cat tree than either Tom or Jess! He is happy, cheeky and has the loudest purr I’ve ever heard in a full grown cat let alone a kitten, he wakes me up with it (after he’s climbed onto my bed by himself) most mornings while he tries to wriggle under my chin for cuddles.
I am still doing physio with him, I have had to make bigger splints and wheels for him as he keeps growing and I’m still hopeful that Bod will walk one day, but even if he doesn’t he is a very happy little man, who will never let his disability stop him, and I love that.”