“Hi! My name is Roo! I was one of the many kitties rescued from the Brookline house. As you can see I was born with front legs that are different from other kitties. I don’t know what all the fuss is about with them though. I play, get around and can go up and down stairs. I also use the litter box and do my best to cover up my mess just like everybody else. “
Meet Roo, one of the unique kitties we rescued from the Brookline hoarding house. Many of the cats had minor abnormalities that are often attributed to or seen with inbreeding, but none were quite as obvious as Roo’s bent front legs called “radial aplasia”. (NOTE: I originally had Roo’s condition incorrectly named as “radial hypoplasia” from information early in the rescue. Our very talented veterinary technician Lindsay Joyce let me know it was identified as “radial aplasia”, a related condition. An earlier version of this article discusses radial hypoplasia). She’s a very lucky kitty—only a few years ago many shelters, rescues and veterinarians would have recommended euthanasia for a cat with legs as severely deformed as hers, but once people started stepping up to foster and adopt them the sentiment changed. Now we see cats like Roo all over the internet. Cats with this condition are given extra accommodations for their level of ability, but aside from that they are friendly and playful and pretty much just like any other cat.
What is radial aplasia?
Radial aplasia is related to a group of foreleg deformities such as “radial hypoplasia”, “radial agenesis” or “foreleg micromelia”. The internet has also shared many kitties rescued with bent hind legs, but that’s a different condition with a different cause. The “radial” referred to is the radial bone or foreleg bone, while “aplasia” refers to a body part that is congenitally absent—it simply never formed. The paws are usually polydactyl and are bent inward at the”wrist” while the rest of the limb or area of the body may also be deformed through the condition itself or through the growth process to accommodate the missing limb.
Other related conditions have a radial bone in place but they are either smaller than normal to varying degrees. “Hypoplasia” describes any organ or body part that is present but never grows or doesn’t develop fully—in the case of the Peter Pan kittens with cerebellar hypoplasia, it was the cerebellum that was affected and did not develop as it should have, to a different degree in each of the three kittens. “Agenesis”, meaning “without generation”, refers to the same lack of development but usually in utero. “Micromelia” refers to a limb being disproportionately short or small. So all together the names of the condition point to front legs that are shorter than usual. But there’s also more to the appearance of the condition.
What all these words mean for a kitty like Roo is that the radial bones in her front legs don’t exist. While related conditions where the bone is present may have developed through in utero events like overcrowding or injury and sometimes an infection or illness, radial aplasia is actually a congenital condition. The condition isn’t caused by inbreeding, but inbreeding enhances the effect. Because it’s a dominant gene and not sex-linked, the kitten doesn’t need a gene from each parent for the condition to appear, and it can appear in both males and females, and it’s nearly always unilateral, or affecting both limbs. But when cats begin to interbreed with parents and siblings as they often do when they are not altered and are living trapped inside one space reproducing at will, that gene gets passed around far more frequently because more and more generations are related to each other, and each generation has a great chance of receiving the gene from one or even both parents. The kittens who receive the gene from both parents are affected far more than others, sometimes to the point where they can’t walk at all. More importantly, with shorter or bent limbs, they can’t knead their mother’s abdomen, causing her milk to flow, and nurse.
Radial aplasia is also closely related to a certain type of polydactyly, including the cats who have multiple toes on the hind paws. Radial aplasia also causes issues in other areas that are magnified in successive generations. Other bones can be bent and joints malformed. Also, one or more paws can be affected as if the growth that isn’t happening in the radial bone is happening elsewhere, pushed farther down the leg. Some polydactyl cats just end up with a extra toe or two lined up with their other toes on their front paws, but cats who develop polydactyly from this condition actually have misshapen paws along with extra toes front and back, a distinct sort of thumb on the front paws and extra long toes overall. At least half of the Brookline kitties were polydactyl in this way.
But other than all that, Roo and other cats with radial aplasia are just like all other cats underneath. Roo came from a horrible situation where nearly 50 cats were abandoned and left to starve, but before that they were overcrowded, living in filthy conditions and not given any veterinary care at all, breeding indiscriminately. Understandably, since that’s what she knew most of her short life, she’s a little shy around people, uncertain about being handled.
Roo has been in a foster home with Pittsburgh C.A.T. since soon after the Homeless Cat Management Team rescued 35 of the cats from that house. Since her health is now stabilized HCMT’s medical director Dr. Kristin Rapsinski recommended a visit with a specialist to examine her and see if there is anything in her physical structure that may need surgery or greater care now and in her future. Pittsburgh C.A.T. will make sure, if and when she is adopted, that she will go to a home that is knowledgeable and skilled with special needs cats, and that Roo will always get the care she needs.
Roo has come a long way and when Pittsburgh C.A.T. presented her for adoption the response was phenomenal, so many people responding so positively to such a wonderfully strong and resilient cat. One person speaking in all caps commented very critically that keeping her alive was cruel and she would likely suffer in the future. It was recommended she do a little research on the condition.
So Roo says, “I will need a very special home. One that will understand my differences and will always be thinking of ways to make things easier for me. When I get older I may need more extra accommodations than other cats. I like other cats. I beg for morning scratches and rubs. I LOVE to sleep in little ‘caves’. Do you have a home for a kitty who is more ‘special’ than ‘needs’?”
Roo is still very young—only a year to a year and a half old—and is looking forward to a forever home where she will never, ever go hungry again. She will be ready in the near future.
Check out Roo’s playtime! https://youtu.be/Neh0Rbd-x_8
Also, as a Brookline cat, Roo is eligible for a year’s worth of Rachael Ray Nutrish food!
Roo is located in Pittsburgh PA.
Adopting from Pittsburgh C.A.T.
Cats available through Pittsburgh C.A.T. are:
- spayed or neutered
- up to date on all vaccines
- test negative for FIV/FeLV unless otherwise noted
They may be shy at first but are completely socialized to living with humans. Pittsburgh C.A.T. has an adoption application and requires veterinary checks on records of current/prior pets of all species and landlord checks if the applicant rents. If you are interested in any of these cats or other cats from Pittsburgh C.A.T., it all begins with the adoption application: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1ktXTAsBbRRxQEfjGJIcQIpITf3UsGwL6FjTprul-adc/viewform
Can’t adopt right now but you’d like to help Pittsburgh C.A.T.? Read on!
Amazon Wish Lists
Many rescuers pay out of pocket for veterinary care and food but the costs of raising even the average litter of four healthy kittens is more than many people have, and many rescues have greater needs. Pittsburgh CAT has a number of wish lists that include foods for feeding neo-natal kittens like KMR, and other lists that include the best kitten foods, adult cat foods, food and materials for feral cats, and preferred toys and litter.
Pittsburgh CAT Wish List: http://www.amazon.com/registry/wishlist/2IUQ0FQOL2I51
2015 Foster Cat/Kitten Wish List: http://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/1A1HUNQ7J3DL/ref=cm_wl_rlist_go_v?
Winter Kitten Wish List! http://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/3CZ6IYCKS2A7N/ref=cm_wl_rlist_go_v?
Fall Wishlist for Fosters/Ferals! http://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/2TD3TQBOEMT1E/ref=cm_wl_rlist_go_v?
Food For Foster Kittens: http://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/OJQIYGC91289/ref=cm_wl_rlist_go_v?
Our Groups Foster Kittens! http://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/1D226142CCGZX/ref=cm_wl_rlist_go_v?
Can’t adopt? Foster! Can’t foster? Donate or volunteer.
There are so many ways you can help cats who need homes and care. You may not have room to adopt another cat, but can foster a cat or kitten for a few weeks. If not that, you can volunteer at a shelter or with a rescue, or donate. You do this because you love your cat, and by doing so you help all cats. No matter which of these actions you take, you help to save a life, and make life better for all cats.
- Adopt one of the cats I’ve posted here, or from any shelter or rescue near you, or from Petfinder, to open up a space for another cat to be rescued and fostered.
- Offer to foster cats or kittens for a shelter or rescue near you.
- Volunteer at a shelter or rescue.
- Find a group of volunteers who work with homeless cats and help them with their efforts.
- Donate to a shelter or rescue near you.
If you can foster kittens or adults cats to help prepare them for a forever home, please run to your nearest shelter and find a cat who needs you! Anyone can help with this effort at any level, even if all you do is donate to a shelter or rescue so they can help to pay for the food or medications needed for their foster, or the spay/neuter/veterinary care during a clinic.
Need to know more? Read Fostering for Your Shelter and Fostering Saves Lives
Browse some rescued cats and kittens—browse here or visit PittsburghCAT!
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Tuesday: Rescue Stories
Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork
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Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy
Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats
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