Watching Magnolia Blossom: A Special Needs Cat’s Road to Recovery

July 26, 2017


“Having a cat with special needs does take a little more care, patience and perseverance. However, seeing her begin to thrive is super rewarding. Maggie has such a sweet spirit.” –Annie K. of Los Angeles, CA

At an animal care center in Los Angeles in late November 2016, we met a cat most people would have given up on. Magnolia (Maggie) was suffering from a recurring wound on her back foot and had to spend her days confined, wearing a cone to prevent further injury. Although Maggie’s affectionate side never waned despite her injuries, the staff at Baldwin Park Animal Care Center knew her persistent affliction would be problematic when it came to finding her a home. They couldn’t give up on her—they just needed a little help. It wasn’t long until a staff member at the shelter reached out to the ASPCA team in the area, and we quickly made the decision to step in.

For quite some time now, the ASPCA has been working nonstop to make a major impact for cats in Los Angeles and specifically for cats at the Baldwin Park Animal Care Center. “ASPCA data shows cats are the most vulnerable population in our shelters in Los Angeles,” says Tina Reddington, Director of the ASPCA Los Angeles Volunteer Program. “Our Feline Pilot Project is moving hundreds of kittens from the Baldwin Park Animal Care Center into foster care since they are too young to be in a shelter environment. We are also working on improving adoptions for adult cats by staffing a cat adoption counselor at the shelter and improving the health of the cats.”

magnolia after surgery

After the Los Angeles team stepped in to help Maggie, it was decided that she would be moved to a temporary foster home. “We pulled Magnolia out and into a foster home, but quickly found that there was more to the wound than we anticipated,” says Tina. “She was attacking her foot aggressively, and that was why the wound never healed.”

Since her behavioral issues proved to be a poor fit for a foster home, Tina and her team decided that it would be best to move Maggie to a veterinary clinic where our staff could better determine the root of Maggie’s problem. “We were hoping she didn’t have lasting behavioral issues and that her attacks were due to pain,” Tina explains.

It turns out that they were absolutely right. Detailed x-rays showed that Maggie had (at some point in her life) suffered from a pelvic fracture and, though it had healed, she still experienced nerve damage that caused pain and discomfort in her back foot. Within days of this diagnosis, the decision was made to amputate Maggie’s back leg. This would permanently end her suffering, and allow Maggie to continue her search for a home pain-free. 

magnolia getting petted

During this time, Maggie had been living with Dr. Katie Marrie, an ASPCA veterinarian and intergral part of Maggie's story, who remained dedicated to helping the ailing cat get the care she needed and the home she deserved. After her surgery and recovery time, Dr. Marrie and Tina decided to move Maggie to a local pet store in the hopes that the perfect adopter would come along and scoop up the lovable cat.

Maggie’s luck never seemed to turn around, and she spent weeks at the pet store with no prospective adopters in spite of the tireless efforts from the ASPCA to prove that, despite her special needs, Magnolia was a unique, lovable cat. Around the same time, Tina and Dr. Marrie noticed that something wasn’t quite right when it came to Maggie’s behavior.

“Maggie didn’t move around much. She liked to be pet, but other than that was living a pretty boring life,” she tells us. Dr. Marrie then stepped back in, deciding it would be best to pull the sensitive cat from the pet store. She knew that Maggie would be more calm and comfortable in a domestic setting, so she began fostering her for the second time. However, this time proved to be much different for the three-legged cutie. Dr. Marrie was also fostering a pair of kittens, and it was the introduction to these small newcomers that would change everything for Maggie. 

The kittens that would change Magnolia’s story for the better.

The kittens that would change Magnolia’s story for the better.

To make for a heartwarming twist in Maggie’s tale, it turned out that she absolutely adored the kittens and the three of them bonded instantly. The comforts of her newfound company helped Maggie come out of her shell and she seemed happier than ever. “She had found a purpose and completely changed into a happier and much less stressed cat,” Tina says. “We decided we would try and get them all three adopted together!” It wasn’t long after this decision was made that Maggie and the kittens soon met their perfect pet parents.

Annie and Justin K. had lost their cat of 18 years during the spring of 2016. As the couple mourned their heartbreaking loss, they eventually began discussing having a new cat join their family. “Justin really wanted kittens,” Annie tells us. “I was voting for cats that were ages two or three, and less likely to be adopted. Then one day Justin said we should just go to the shelter and get the cat no one else wants, like a 3-legged cat for example!” Annie and Justin then went to look at cats available for adoption, and soon they met Magnolia and her kitten friends. “When we went to the pet store, this ‘family’ adoption actually touched on everything we had talked about,” Annie says. 

Magnolia and her new kitten friends

In early June 2017, Annie and Justin made the adoption official. Maggie and the kittens, now named Goose and Trout, went home with their new pet parents. After seven long months with the ASPCA, Maggie was finally given the opportunity to be the beloved pet we always knew she could be.

According to Annie, the trio’s transition into their new home went smoothly. However, within a few weeks, Annie noticed that Maggie began gnawing on her back foot. “We had to put the cone on, which she endured and the kittens hated. She started to be withdrawn from both us and the kittens, and her foot just got worse,” Annie says.

Annie then took Maggie back to Dr. Marrie where she explained that Maggie most likely suffers from feline hyperesthesia syndrome, a rare skin disease that causes episodes of agitation and self-mutilation and requires anti-anxiety medication for treatment. This information helped Annie and Justin better understand how to help Maggie and care for her. Annie tells us that Goose and Trout like to help their older sibling too! “The kittens are so tuned into Maggie that we have observed them interrupting her attempts to gnaw on her back foot, and Trout often tries to clean the affected areas, which she does not like but sometimes tolerates,” Annie says. “It's been amazing to watch them take care of each other.”

One of Magnolia's kitten friends

Despite the hiccups that come with Maggie’s special needs, Annie tells us that they wouldn’t have their family any other way, and that Justin and Maggie have formed a special bond. She also adds that knowing that Maggie has such a strong support system with the kittens is encouraging. “We are so hopeful that with time, patience and love from us and the kittens that Magnolia will blossom.”

Though Magnolia has suffered more than most, her story is only looking up from here on out thanks to the love and support from Annie and Justin. We couldn’t have hoped for a better outcome for this very special cat.

If you are interested in becoming a kitten foster in the Los Angeles area, apply online today!