A Sudden Love Connection Helps Nero Find a Home
Ray Li was on his way to visit a friend in Stuyvesant Town in Manhattan’s Lower East Side when he noticed the ASPCA’s Mobile Adoptions Vehicle parked nearby.
As he neared the vehicle, Ray spotted a black-and-white kitten behind a glass window.
“Our eyes met for less than one second,” Ray explains. “I took a picture, and our eyes met again. I felt something special, but I said to myself, ‘Don’t be stupid.’ So I kept on moving.”
But Ray couldn’t get the kitten, an eight-week-old male named Nero, out of his mind. As he and his friend Kiki Zhang ate lunch, he told her about the encounter.
“I said I had fallen in love with this kitten,” he recalls. Kiki, a volunteer with Animal Care Centers (ACC) of NYC—where Ray adopted his first cat, Wawa, five years ago—encouraged him to adopt Nero.
“She said, ‘You always like the animals you meet, but besides Wawa, you never said you loved another one,’” recalls Ray, who used to help Kiki foster kittens from ACC.
Ray, an NYU alumnus, recalls a childhood that included three generations of cats. “I always had a deep connection with cats and was always comfortable around them,” he says.
After lunch, Ray returned to the ASPCA’s vehicle to meet Nero. It was then that he learned Nero sometimes tilts or “bobbles” his head, leading to imbalanced, inefficient mobility.
Nero was transported to the ASPCA Kitten Nursery on July 11 by Brooklyn ACC, where he was relinquished by a resident who found him as a stray.
“When Nero first came to us, he had a significant, almost non-stop, side-to-side head movement,” explains Dr. Ralph Tran, a veterinarian in the ASPCA’s Kitten Nursery. “The only time he didn’t exhibit this behavior was when he was asleep.”
Unsure if Nero’s movements were due to an untreated inner ear infection or possibly brain damage or trauma, Dr. Tran prescribed long-term antibiotics to treat possible infection. He also treated Nero’s upper respiratory infection and conjunctivitis, both of which are common afflictions in young, vulnerable kittens.
“Nero quickly responded to treatment, and his side-to-side head movement decreased to the point where it occurred only when he was excited,” says Dr. Tran.
While the antibiotics helped reduce Nero’s symptoms, the bobbling did not completely resolve, and Dr. Tran assumed that Nero may have permanent damage from his infection being left untreated for so long. However, Dr. Tran predicts that Nero’s condition will not progress or worsen, and it certainly didn’t deter Ray from adopting him.
“Nero has no idea he is a little bit ‘different,’” says Eileen Hanavan, Senior Manager of the APSCA’s Offsite Adoption and Foster Programs. “He captured the hearts of our staff and volunteers with his confident and affectionate nature, and we’re thrilled that Ray sees him for who he is—a special kitten with a big personality.”
“I don’t think of him as disabled,” says Ray of Nero, now re-named “Bubble.” “It’s his reality—something he’s used to.”
Nero’s Next Step
At his Manhattan apartment, Ray set up Bubble in his own crate until he and Wawa, an eight-year-old Abyssinian-mix, got used to one another’s presence. A former finance executive turned personal trainer, Ray’s flexible schedule allowed him to supervise Bubble’s introduction to the household and spend extra time with both cats during the transition.
Since then, Bubble and Wawa have become fast friends, often playing and napping together.
With Bubble, I don’t have expectations. I just try to understand him,” explains Ray. “I just let Bubble be Bubble.”