1996? - 2009
Her whole life was a struggle but she, for the most part, didn't seem to notice.
She was born with cerebral palsy, and fought for the movement that came effortlessly to the other cats. Where they moved with grace and speed, her motions were slow and jerky--but if she resented it, she never showed it. She tottered around the house like a drunken sailor, undaunted by her own clumsiness. She would just persevere until she got to where she was going or accomplished what she set out to do.
I don't know why her original family took her to the Animal Shelter. Perhaps they were tired of her. Perhaps they didn't want to bother with a cat who wasn't "right." For whatever reason, Slippers--confined in a small cage--was pretty pitiful. With her unsteady movements, she was forever tipping over her litter box or food dishes. She was so "tippy" that she had to dip her paw in her water dish and lick it dry to quench her thirst--to lean over her dish was to invite a dunking.
It was that last image that burned into my heart.
I would go in the the animal shelter on my volunteer day and let Slippers out of her cage. I would watch her stagger around the cat room, enjoying the simple pleasure of having space to move in. I knew no one coming to the shelter to adopt a cat was likely to pick the stunted, plain-jane little tabby with the unsteady walk. They would logically assume she was unhealthy and prone to maladies. But I knew a little about cerebellar hypoplasia. I knew that this affliction only affected muscle coordination, not health or intelligence. In fact, CH cats are known to be both bright and cheerful little souls despite their handicap.
Still, I knew no one was going to adopt her, with her common looks and awkward gait while she was surrounded by lovely cats and engaging kittens .
Well, no one but us.
We learned a few things about her right away.
She didn't like to be picked up and would struggle frantically to escape our grasp. We figured she must have been dropped a few times by children or those who weren't expecting her to be so twitchy in her movements. So we made a promise to ourselves and to her that if we picked her up, we would never let her fall. After a few months, she became calmer and less frantic when we picked her up. It took a couple years before she learned to relax when we held her.
Apparently in her first home, there were no regularly scheduled meal times. Or perhaps Slippers was just forgotten more often than not. For whatever reason, she was a hazard to navigation in the kitchen, never trusting that we would feed her unless she was there underfoot to remind us. She had a voracious appetite, as if unsure when her next meal was coming. Despite regular and lavish feeding for the past decade, if anyone was in the kitchen, Tripper would be there, too.
For the first few years after she came to live with us, Slippers was quiet and rather shy. Time changed that so that in her final years, she was often the first one of our cats that visitors would meet. She loved her pillow in front of the wood stove and that's where she would receive guests.
All stories have an ending and we suspected that Slippers' story was drawing toward its close when she began to have seizures this past year. They were rare at first but increased in frequency until by October she was having several a day. We would find her in random locations, wedged under a shelf or between furniture, dazed and exhausted. We put her on medication that stopped the seizures but left her groggy and confused. Her nervous system was betraying her. In in the process she lost the strength in her hind legs and became incontinent. I tried to keep her clean and comfortable but she continued to decline and I had to accept that this wasn't a malady that she was going to recover from.
Slippers never gave up. It was the pattern of her life. But life gave up on her. What was left for me to do was let her leave with dignity and love.