Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror

Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

If all this COVID-19 pandemic, presidential impeachment and congressional riot stuff is getting you down, Donna Goodenough has an idea for injecting some positivity into your life.

The owner of Campbell River’s Kalmar Cat Hotel suggests adopting a cat with a disability. That’s what she’s done and the experience has been overwhelmingly positive.

“All my cats are special needs and I know from experience, they give love in a different way,” Goodenough said. “And it’s very rewarding. And I would love for people to search their heart and see if they don’t have a little extra love for the special needs cats that probably no one else would want.”

Two kittens that Goodenough recently adopted suffer from cerebellar hypoplasia, also known as wobbly cats syndrome, a neurological disorder resulting from interrupted development of the brain leading to uncoordinated movement. The symptoms include problems walking, running, jumping or even locating items around them and the severity can vary widely.

“Their mind cannot control any of these wild movements that they make,” Goodenough said. “They’re just a rodeo!”

When Goodenough calls her cats Poppy and Lilly to their food bowls the two seven-month-old kittens come a-running just like any kitten. But, sadly, their condition makes the mad dash to the bowl a jumble of paws and legs flailing in uncoordinated jerks, stumbles and crashes. It’s amusing and their enthusiasm is cute but it’s a little bit sad too.

Story continues below video…

With the cats that Goodenough has adopted with their condition, on a scale of 1-10, one of them is a two or three while the other is a nine, Goodenough said.

So, when they’re called to dinner, it’s “all bets are off,” Goodenough said. “Stand back! The bulls have been let out of the corral,” she says drawing allusions to the scene in Pamplona, Spain with the Running of the Bulls.

Usually, when kittens are born with this condition they’re often put down or abandoned but Goodenough wants people to look beyond their disability. She said her vet did express to her his concerns about their condition.

‘He asked me if I thought she had a good quality of life,” Goodenough said. And I gotta tell you…I think they do. You should see these girls play! Oh my goodness, give them a toy and they just go bananas!”

The cats are born with their condition and have never known anything different. Goodenough agrees that if they had suffered an injury like a broken back or something that would cripple them for the rest of their life, that would perhaps be different.

“That would be something that I would have to consider further,” Goodenough said. “But I can tell you for a fact, they’re happy. And they’re not in pain, except when they fall down and bang their head. Poppy does a lot.”

But Goodenough has other disabled cats, in fact, she has another cat that has the same condition that she got prior to the two new kittens. Goodenough grades, Zoe, the older cat’s condition at a two or three.

Goodenough runs the Kalmar Cat Hotel in which she boards cats but she also has six cats of her own. She put the word out that she is willing to adopt disabled cats.

RELATED: Hotel for cats in Campbell River holding open house on Sunday

“I have been asking all my friends if they hear about any kind of a disability, I will take that cat. I just had the urge for another disabled. I have a soft spot for the ones that might be overlooked at adoption times,” she said. “In my opinion, they give so much more than a happy cat, you know, that’s just fine in every way. These need a little help. And it just enriches my life.”

Poppy and Lilly were acquired from a rescue organization in Victoria, Broken Promises Rescue. Goodenough had put the call out for special needs cats and a girlfriend in Mill Bay put her in touch with Pamela Saddler at Broken Promises.

She was thrilled to know that Goodenough already had experience with CH (cerebellar hypoplasia) cats because nobody had wanted to take these cats. Because Goodenough doesn’t drive, Saddler delivered the cat to her door. Goodenough has had them for two months now and she says they are doing well.

The biggest change Goodenough had to do to her house to accommodate the new arrivals was to their potty area. Because they are unable to get into a litter box – “they’ll just fall out” – she uses a plastic liner that usually goes in the bottom of a dog crate and puts newspaper on it. The cats have been trained to go on newspaper, jut like a puppy, and there are “pee pads” on top of the newspaper and then more newspaper. She needs a lot of newspaper and gets a lot of it donated by the Campbell River Mirror.

“They know to go there and for the most part, they can make it there. They will fall down and if I can get to them in time, I’ll hold them. So they don’t fall down in the pee.”

So, obviously bathroom time is when the real commitment to the cats comes into play.

“Poppy’s real good and she’s pretty easy, although she will fall over backwards. It’s something she can’t help and Lilly, on the other hand, if I hear her going stepping on the papers, I will run in and grab her because she just has no control.”

But Goodenough, whose whole life is dedicated to cats, and has organized her house again to accommodate the newcomers, she would have it no other way.

“They’re both just adorable,” she said.

So, if you’re looking for something to lift you out of the doldrums, consider giving an animal with a disability a home. Donna Goodenough can testify to the satisfaction it will bring you.

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RELATED: Three kittens found zipped in freezer bag abandoned at BC SPCA branch


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