February 22, 2017

Disabled Kitten Finds His Footing with Perfect Adopters

Happy Tails: Frederico

“I completely love him. He’s so brave, and so happy.” –Gillian C. of New York, NY

At just one-month-old, Frederico was brought into the ASPCA Animal Hospital (AAH) after being found as a stray with two other kittens last September. Upon their arrival, the kittens were assessed by the veterinary team, and it became clear that the small, scared little ones were slightly different developmentally. Frederico and his siblings were diagnosed with a neurological disorder called Cerebellar Hypoplasia (CH), which affects motor skills, causes difficulties with coordination and makes seemingly easy tasks for a kitten, like walking or eating, more difficult. Therefore, CH kitties are very clumsy by nature, making them look like they are drunk when they walk around. CH also causes them to have “intention tremors,” which means their clumsiness gets worse the harder they try to do something.

Frederico looking curious

Luckily, CH is not a progressive disease, meaning that the veterinary team knew that Frederico and his siblings would live, long and healthy lives without concern of their condition worsening. Despite their disability, the kittens were healthy and everyone was excited to help them find their permanent homes. However, Frederico’s CH was far more pronounced than his siblings’, so the team decided to first send Frederico to a foster home where he could gain some strength before beginning his path towards adoption. Even though his siblings were cleared to be adopted, the team sent one of them to stay with Frederico in his foster home so that he wouldn’t have to be alone.

Upon their return in early November, Frederico’s sweet, playful personality and quirky mannerisms caused by the CH made him a favorite furry friend around the ASPCA Adoption Center. Despite his preexisting condition, no one at the Adoption Center believed that Frederico knew he was different from any other cat. 

Federico walking around

As Thanksgiving came and went, the Adoption Center held its annual “Cat Friday” event, offering special promotions for cat and kitten adoptions. Though large numbers of people came through that day to find their new four-legged-family members, Frederico remained overlooked. It wasn’t until the following day that two remarkable people walked through the door and Frederico’s life was forever changed.

Gillian C. and her boyfriend, Rory, had come to the Adoption Center in the hopes of finding the perfect addition for their family. The couple had both grown up around cats, and after settling into a new apartment, they were finally ready to adopt a cat of their very own. They knew that they wanted their first cat to be the right one, so they began their search carefully. As they looked around the Adoption Center, they stopped to play with only a few kittens—one of whom was Frederico. The Adoption Counselor told the couple about Frederico’s condition, which made Gillian feel an instant connection with the small cat. 

Frederico under a blanket

“I’m studying Neuroscience, so I immediately thought he was a good fit for me since he has a neurological condition,” Gillian says. “I really thought that I could understand him better than other people might.”

As Gillian and Rory continued to watch Frederico move around and interact, they couldn’t help but fall in love with the tiny klutz. They tell us that after watching Frederico attempt to drink water—a task where he fully dunks his face into the bowl and then looks around as he laps the water up from around his face— they were completely sold. 

Federico drinking water
Frederico enjoying a drink of water.

“That sealed the deal,” Rory says.

The couple made Frederico’s adoption official and took him to his new home, where they carefully picked a new name for the little orange kitty. Rory and Gillian knew that they wanted to give their newest family member a name that suited him, and so they decided on Butterfinger, due to his clumsy nature.

“We Googled synonyms for ’clumsy,’ and as soon as I saw ’Butterfinger’ I thought of his coloring,” Gillian says while laughing.

Federico relaxing with his family

It took some time for Butterfinger to adjust to his new home. His CH made him skeptical about new surroundings, specifically the hardwood floors where he had difficulty balancing. Gillian says that they put yoga mats out for him, so that he felt more comfortable moving around the apartment. Despite his apprehension, within the first two weeks, Butterfinger was moving all around and even made his way up onto the sofa, and later onto the bed.

“He sleeps with us every night, now that he can get onto the bed,” Gillian says proudly.

Though Butterfinger will always have CH, Gillian and Rory work daily to help him get stronger and keep him stimulated. They tell us that the things that surprised them most about Butterfinger were his intelligence, intuition and bravery despite his disability. 

Federico with Rory and Gillian

“Even though they might need a little more help, you have to consider who they are internally,” Rory says about special needs kittens. “He’s a really special kitten,” Gillian sweetly adds. “We feel really lucky.”