Originally published in Lost Souls: FOUND! Inspiring Stories About Cats.
A Cat Named Sue
Early last year a unique kitten came into my life. My heart belongs to all animals, but special needs animals hold a particular place. This is a result of my cat, Weaver, who was born without the use of her rear legs and was incontinent due to the nerve damage from various birth defects. Weaver was a part of my life for eight years until she passed due to kidney failure. She was the reason I rescued a special kitten from animal control when the plea came out over the rescue email lists of my area.
I was sitting at my desk trying to wade through the mountains of paperwork in front of me, when a plea for a six-week-old kitten, who had just been brought to an animal control in north Louisiana, came into my inbox. I found it odd that a plea for a kitten was going out on this list, as most people on the list were dog people, and emails about cats were rare. The subject line read: “Kitten with Deformed Legs at Animal Control: Needs Rescue,” and the message was from a dog rescuer who happened to be in the animal control facility when the kitten was brought. She took photographs and quickly sent out the email.
The rescuer normally did not work with cats, but the little kitten pulled at her heart because the center was not going to even consider finding placement for her; the kitten was to be immediately euthanized. The lady convinced the officers to give her a day or two to try and find a rescue to take the kitten.
Upon seeing the pictures of the frightened kitten, I knew I had to do something. All I could think about was Weaver and how no one wanted to give her a chance when she was that age, yet she had become the light of my life. I quickly responded and spent the entire morning making phone calls and trying to convince the animal control director that I have experience with cats like this and can give the kitten a good life. I am glad that I did, as I later found out that no one else stepped up to help.
Two days later I met the kitten and a transport volunteer at a little convenience store. The kitten I received was in desperate need of a bath and lots of love. This was the same time that a plain and slightly unusual Scottish lady named Susan Boyle had astonished the world with her powerful voice. Before she began singing during her first performance, everyone considered her a joke and judged her based on her appearance. When she opened her mouth, the beauty of her voice had people all over the world crying. I named the kitten Susan, as she seemed on the outside to be a total mess, but in her eyes I could see love and a fighter’s spirit.
Susan was probably the result of someone trying to breed Cymrics, as she is a longhaired Manx (which is, by definition, a Cymric). Her rear legs were curled around like curly-Q fries. She could not urinate on her own and had to have her bladder expressed several times a day. I would come home during lunch every day to take care of her and give her a bath. She was a spunky kitten and was living up to her namesake.
Sue would go with me to adoption days on weekends, and everyone loved her. As she became older, she did not like the outings quite as much, so I would instead leave her home to play with the other cats, while I went to adoption days or to work.
I brought Sue to several veterinarians, who all said she was a wonderful cat who had a lot of spirit and determination. They agreed that when she was old enough, she should be fine to go under anesthesia to be spayed, but a turn of events soon had us all floored by the extent of her birth defects.
When she was a little over six months old, Sue developed a urinary blockage. I was unable to express her bladder one evening. Knowing that urinary blockages were deadly, I took her to the vet immediately. She was getting weak, and I was scared to death I would lose her, but I knew she was a fighter. I had to leave her at the veterinary clinic because they had no open appointments; I had basically just shown up and pleaded for help. After an hour or two, I received a phone call from her veterinarian.
“Hey, I’ve got an update for you.” he stated.
“How’s my little girl?”
“Well…that’s the first thing we’ve got to talk about.”
“What do you mean?” I asked very confused.
“Miss Susan is actually Mr. Susan.”
“I’m sorry… There’s nothing back there.”
“Well he does have one thing… The rest is probably inside him, or he doesn’t have them at all. He does present externally as if he is a female, but if you apply pressure back there, you will see he’s a boy.”
I was astonished. Susan had been to three different veterinarians, and nobody realized that he was male? Of course, I never went poking around back there to make sure, and nothing ever poked out when I had made him urinate, so I wasn’t the wiser. We talked for a while to discuss the blockage. Apparently it is much more common for males to have urinary blockages than females. When a cat has a blockage, he or she must get to a veterinarian immediately, or death within a day or two is probable.
It was very lucky that I had to express Susan’s bladder because I knew right away that he had a blockage. This is why it is so important to keep an eye on your cats to make sure they are using the litter box properly and not having any issues. Susan was lucky, and after three days at the veterinary clinic, he was now able to come home. I had to bring him back once more after about two days when he became blocked again, but after that he did very well. Thankfully he has not had another blockage since.
At that point I was facing a new dilemma…do I rename him? I was used to Sue being my little Susie-Q, so now what? My friend said that I should just keep the name Sue and say he was named after the Johnny Cash song, “A Boy Named Sue.” I laughed and said that was a good idea. I think I jinxed myself at that point, as Sue has grown up to be quite the little tough guy. He is the most dominant cat in my house, feeling that he has to prove he is the biggest, baddest cat in our little world. This is funny since he is still relatively small with a female-looking face and long fur, which makes him look even more like a female cat. He’s turning out to be My Boy Named Sue, and I love every minute of his antics.
Just think, a little over a year ago animal control would have euthanized this spunky fellow because they felt he couldn’t live a normal life. It just goes to show that like in the case of Susan Boyle, we should not judge people or animals before getting to know them.