Meet Bug

How old is Bug?

bug was born in the middle of march of 2012.

How did he get the name Bug?

To tell you the truth, I honestly don’t know where it came from! Originally his name at the shelter was Michael, and that just did not fit him at all. I was trying to think of some name that just *fit* and even called him Bodie for a day (that’s a ghost town in california that I love). Then, somehow BUG just leapt into my brain and I knew he had to be bug.

Can you explain a bit about Bug’s condition?

It is called Radial Hypoplasia and that means that his radius bones in his front legs failed to grow properly from a genetic mutation. the radius is one of the 2 long bones in the cat’s front legs and in cats like bug, the bone is extremely short or non-existent. this results in bug’s front legs being bent inward and originally he walked on his elbows. remarkably, bug’s left front leg somehow straightened itself out as he grew, i guess because of his determination to use it. it was less severe that his right leg. he seems to have developed muscles to compensate somehow and he now basically moves like a 3-legged cat. bug’s vet was very surprised by this unexpected adaption he made, and so was i. it just proves that when a cat is a kitten, you never really know how they will adapt and make the best use of what they have. by the way, cats like bug are nicknamed “Twisty Cats” or Kangaroo Cats because of the way they tend to develop more powerful hind legs and sit up like a kangaroo or meerkats, if you’ve ever seen the show Meerkat Manor. bug also has a very well-developed tail now because he uses it to aid himself in balancing. it is usually curved over his back like a question mark and has grown so muscular it reminds me of the tail of a mountain lion.

What were the preparations you made to accommodate Bug into the house?

No. I was going to see what accommodations he needed for instance, perhaps a baby gate at the top of the stairs or closing the door at the bottom of the stairs. I thought he might need a rug on the living room floor all the time, but he does OK on wooden floors. when he was a little kitten (I got him at 10 weeks of age), I put a pillow on the floor below the couch so he had something soft to land on when he jumped off. Eventually he didn’t need it anymore as he grew. Also, my bed is high, but it has a blanket chest at the foot of it. i put some soft things on that and bug knew enough all on his own to use the chest as something to jump up on to get up onto the bed. he is a very smart kitten. and then one day he simply leaped from the floor right up onto the bed and never uses the blanket chest anymore. He also jumps *off* the bed right down to the rug, and i confess that it makes me cringe a little because he makes quite a bang. but i have to believe that if it truly hurt him, he’s smart enough that he wouldn’t do it. He figured out how to use the cat door that goes out onto the enclosed back porch very quickly and also learned to use the second cat door that goes out to the cattery – something we built out of 2×4’s and heavy deer fencing so that the cats can sit out in the fresh air and sunshine when they want to. as for the stairs – bug climbed them the 2nd day he was here. I couldn’t believe my eyes – this little guy climbing on his elbows. I figured OK, he can get up the stairs… but can he get down? the answer was yes. it’s a little more difficult for him, but he does it. Nowadays he gallops up the stairs. You should see how fast he is when I shake the Greenies bag!

What would you like to say to people who are worried about adopting a special needs cat?

I would say let the cat show you what it can do. Let the cat explore and try things out. Your immediate reaction when it climbs on something might be ‘oh no!’ and you might want to go take them down, but I let bug do whatever he wanted to do under my watchful eye. if he got distressed, he would let me know by meowing and only then would I help him. One day I went out onto the back porch and he was climbing a 5 foot tall cat tree my father had built – it was just a tall, carpet covered pole with a hole to a platform at the very top. I thought OK, he got UP….how is he going to get DOWN? but when he got tired of playing up top, he just came down hind-end first. basically, depending on how fearless the cat is (bug is pretty fearless), they will experiment and teach themselves to handle things. I knew cats could be capable of AMAZING things because I’d worked for many years with special needs cats. One was named Baby and she had criss-crossed hind legs she could not use. She would pull herself along with her front legs everywhere. then one day she clearly got tired of that and just lifted her butt off the floor and walked across the room on her 2 front legs!

How is bug doing today?

bug is terrific. He is as rambunctious as you’d expect a kitten of 9 months to be.  He is lightning fast and makes me laugh every single day with his antics. He has no health problems whatsoever. He seems to get around better at a run than a walk. His right front leg kind of hangs there as if he needs a sling, but although it looks useless, he uses it a lot when he plays. When he was a baby he boxed with his elbows. 🙂 He has gained a pound a month, just as kittens should, but I want to keep him on the slimmer side as an adult so he won’t put too much excess pressure on his joints because that could give him arthritis.

Does Bug do any therapy or take medications? Or will he have surgery?

No, no therapy or medications. He makes up his own therapy and is apparently successful! Originally I got him some crocheted leggings from Leggings For Life, but he did not like to keep them on. They were to help him get around and to keep him from developing sores, but he hasn’t ever gotten any sores, so I gave up trying to keep them on him. As for surgery, I never had any intention of having any performed on him. I already knew from years of working with paralyzed cats, CH cats, etc, that they adapt and that humans can learn a lot from the way they accept the way they are and learn to develop and use their determination and skills. They have inspired me for years. if surgery failed or if he got an infection, he could have lost a leg and then he would only have ONE bad leg in front to get around with. No way was I taking that chance.

How did you get involved with special needs cats?

Many years ago I had a yellow cat named mattie who used to just about be velcroed to me. One morning he came downstairs and into the kitchen and he was leaning against the wall to walk, his legs sliding all over the place. I thought he’d had a stroke. he spent a few days in an emergency hospital as they tried to figure out the problem and it turned out that he had toxoplasmosis, which had caused a lesion in his brain, which in turn affected his ability to use his limbs on one side or feel if his paws were touching the floor.Aafter a HUGE vet bill, it turned out that some $5 antibiotics treated the problem. He never walked totally “right” again and we moved furniture around in the living room to make it ‘handicat accessible’. after that,Ii began going to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah and working in the special needs building Kitty Motel during my vacations, which is where I met the amazing cat Baby.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Animals can teach us a lot if we stop to observe and learn and even teach us things we never knew about ourselves, or what we too can achieve.


In loving memory of sweet Mattie who left us too soon.


Author’s Note:
Thank you and Bug and his mom for answering the questions.. you can find Bug on his facebook page.. 
PS – I, the author do have a cat named Bug (aka Buggy) but this is not my cat. Just in case you were wondering. =^..^=