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Cats, and disability

January 28, 2009

She has reminded me of this before, but I was just brushing one of the cats, and started thinking about how she demonstrates the social model of disability.

This is Punkin.

Punkin helps me clean the aquarium!

Punkin probably got hit by a car when she was about 6 months old–we’re still not sure exactly what happened, but I found her outside the patio door when I got up, with a mangled head, and we do live on a busy street. (We tried to keep the cats inside, because of this. They did not cooperate.) She tried very hard to live, and made it through a lot of shock, pain, and medical treatment. She needed to have one eye and her broken tail removed, and went to a specialist vet clinic for surgery to put a frame on her shattered jaw. A leg I was afraid was broken turned out just to be sprained. (A major reason I went to work at Iceland was to help pay the £4000+ vet bills. I was just glad we were in a position to put them on DH’s Visa.)

Punkin had to stay in a cage–which DH had built after her Uncle Mirrors’ hip injury, at about the same age–and needed feeding and medicating through a tube for months. She cried almost constantly for weeks; with the jaw, it sounded like a demented sheep. We paid as much attention to her as we could, taking her out of the cage and holding her, but she was still lonely and in pain. The vet did not send any pain relief home with her at all. :/ For many months, she needed doses of lactulose to keep her bowels moving, in spite of damaged nerves from her broken tail. She also had urinary incontinence for a couple of months, and needed frequent cleaning. We twolegs had to wonder, for a while there, if she would ever be in good shape again.

So I look at her now, better than a year later. Yeah, she’s missing an eye, doesn’t even have a noticeable stump left from her raccoon tail, and has a bite worthy of a Habsburg, with some broken teeth we’re keeping an eye on. It doesn’t seem to slow her down at all. It did not take her long to adjust to losing binocular vision, with depth perception (and no tail for balance); she climbs and jumps around with no apparent trouble now. She doesn’t hesitate to light into the neighbor’s cat–just looking at him irks her–or to light into the pigeons Mirrors drags in. We gave her wet food every time she asked, but she likes to crunch on dry food again, broken teeth or no. She still occasionally needs the lactulose, but the nerves seem to have mostly healed up. We still worry a little when she acts bratty and refuses to come in at bedtime (especially since that’s how she was out there to get injured), but it’s no longer freaking us out when she goes outside. She’s pretty much back to normal.

It would be difficult for a human to bounce back as quickly and fully from similar injuries. The big difference, AFAICT? The other cats just treat her as the same old Punkin. They don’t stare at her missing parts, much less point and whisper. They don’t ask nosy questions, and express amazement that she’s up and about at all. They don’t go on about how “brave” she is. She’s just Punkin, being Punkin. As it should be.

There is a bit of lingering behavior change, I think. She acts even more like a princess than she did before her accident, very likely because we twolegs have coddled her more, in spite of ourselves. Granted, she was pretty spoiled before. The other cats have certainly not been coddling her.

BTW, Punkin stayed with us largely because she was very timid, and did not react well to change. Instead of playing with the other kittens, she preferred to sit in our laps, or lean up against us for comfort, and watch them intently. Her mother also stayed here because she is definitely not a neurotypical cat; she startles very easily, and a lot of her behavior even looks unusual to humans. Feist hid when friends came by to adopt her two siblings. Feist also chases foxes every chance she gets, which is pretty often around here; she started doing her juggernaut routine at them when she had kittens in the house. It’s something to watch! Her behavior does not seem to bother the other cats. She’s just Feist.

Maybe this sort of attitude is another thing we can learn from cats.

One Comment leave one →
  1. urocyon permalink
    June 17, 2010 1:09 pm

    Update: Punkin is still doing mostly OK. She is continuing to have bowel problems, which is not surprising given the nerve damage. So she needs careful watching in case she needs another round of lactulose, cleaning about everyday with wipes, and towels on surfaces where she likes to spend a lot of time. She can’t always tell when she needs to go to the box, so she leaves nuggets around the house. We periodically take clippers to her rear end, to prevent matting and general muckiness–even more of an issue, with her long hair. About a year ago, she had to go to the vet’s and get unblocked under anesthesia, after lactulose and mineral oil didn’t do the job. Now we watch her even more carefully! It has to be uncomfortable sometimes, and–not surprisingly–signs of discomfort are one of the big things we look out for.

    She also needs a lot of other extra grooming, since she never really learned to groom herself properly. When she got injured, her mother was still doing most of it, and then she had a frame on her jaw for months. (And, no doubt, a painful jaw that deterred her afterward for a while.) So, she gets brushed a lot and occasionally gets a shower. We’d probably bathe her more frequently if she didn’t dislike it so much.

    Overall? Not a problem. She seems happy most of the time, which is the really important thing. And I still get appalled and angry, thinking about some people’s attitudes and “quality of life” projections toward other humans with continuing assistance needs about like Punkin’s.

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