I saw a request on the internet for people to crochet leggings for kitties born with deformed hind legs.
You don’t need to ask me twice! I crochet all the time and in addition to apparel, household stuff and merchandise I also crochet scarves for the Special Olympics, chemo caps, preemie hats, lap robes for nursing and rehab homes. Now I can crochet for kitties too, and these little leggings are done in no time!
Matching needy kitties with those who crochet
The idea behind Leggings for Life is not only to find people willing to crochet the leggings, but also to match kitties and other animals in need with the people who make them so they can communicate and ship directly.
You may have heard of Willow, a kitten born with deformed back legs in December 2010 who has gone on to internet fame by not only surviving but thriving even though she drags her hind legs. Aside from that she’s a pretty normal kitty—aside from that and that new cool kitty wheelchair she walks around with.
Kittens born with deformities like Willow’s are not rare and are documented in various places. Sometimes the legs will grow into the proper position and the kitten will gain full use but later kittenhood or adulthood. Some kitties have only one leg that’s a problem, or they have some control over the legs even with some difficulty. The dependable Sarah Hartwell has an article about just this issue on Messybeast, and you can see photos of other cats with leg deformities and explanations of related conditions, such as radial hypoplasia which Lisa mentions below in this article. PandEcats.com and ShowCatsOnline.com share a number of articles on breed kittens born with these conditions.
Willow’s legs actually turn inward and in this position she can’t use them at all. When she’s not in her chair her legs chafe and ulcerate when she’s dragging them across any surface, even softer, smoother ones. Fur and skin just aren’t meant to be dragged in that way.
The chafing and ulcerations lead to infection and often amputation, which may then mean the abdomen drags on the ground developing the same issue with ulcerations, certainly a shame if the kitty is having a normal life in every other way. (Some of these kittens have other issues in the area of the hips and lower abdomen as well, such as intestinal and bladder development and function.)
A product called Pet Flex tape, which you may have seen if your pet has ever had an IV line for a procedure or a splint where stitches aren’t required, for instance, can go a long way toward keeping the legs protected, but other problems develop when the skin is constantly covered by this impervious cover.
Lisa Krolasik, who “virtually” met Willow’s mom Wendy Michelle Matthews on Facebook, designed and crocheted a pair of leggings for Willow and sent them off to Wendy.
“Willow has almost completely healed since wearing them a couple of months now (since June),” Lisa said in an e-mail to me. “It was my idea to make them, because I hated to see her having to wear the Pet Flex tape all the time. The leggings allowed her legs to breathe, and Wendy was able to put aloe on Willow’s legs without removing the leggings,” she explained. The leggings also provide cushioning when Willow walks, sliding her legs along the floor or even climbing up onto furniture.
“Willow’s leggings are actually kind of wide, because she has polydactyl feet and they need to be able to slip over them,” Lisa continued, adding that Wendy added a second layer of stitches to make Willow’s leggings even more cushiony. “I have sent her 8 pairs, because they might get dirty and need to be changed.”
Lisa went on to explain that because Wendy is in the process of adopting a paralyzed kitty named Lifey from the Philippines, she made a couple pairs of leggings for Lifey which she put in the mail last Monday; more about Lifey a little further in this article.
She is also currently crocheting modified leggings for a cat named Starr who has radial hypoplasia. Her brother has a Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/Ody.the.Cat.
The Facebook page for Leggings for Life http://www.facebook.com/Leggingsforlife simply took off on Saturday morning. Lisa explained that it was Wendy’s idea to make the page and that more info and instructions would be added in the coming days.
“It all happened so fast!” she said. “The emails from people wanting to crochet are rolling in, but what we really need now are ‘customers’ for the leggings.” She is hoping next week to be contacted by people with animals needing leggings.
“I say ‘animals’ but it will most likely be cats, though I can see how a dog or rabbit might be able to use them,” Lisa commented. “The crocheters want to get started right away! But each animal is different, has a different condition, is a different size. I am hoping to match the crocheter with the animal using geography. If both live in the same city, they might be able to meet. Or postage might be cheaper and mailing faster if they are closer to each other,” she continued.
As of midnight on Saturday, a little over 12 hours since the page was posted, it had 275 “likes”, and Lisa had 13 crocheters and three people who wanted to donate yarn.
June 27, 2013: I’m editing out the e-mail and instructions I’d first posted in this article because they are no longer valid. You can find “Leggings for Life” on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Leggingsforlife, and they have referred all messages through Facebook and have no freestanding e-mail address.
Videos about Willow
“A Miracle for Willow”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvHDKrCGbKo&feature=related
“We All Matter”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKAu5s0hsKU
Wendy and Willow have arranged to adopt a kitty with a similar condition named Lifey who had been living on a roof, dragging her legs on concrete and developing ulcerations. But Lifey lives in the Philippines and Willow and her mommy live in the United States, and they’ve encountered a number of problems trying to transport Lifey here. At last count, the airline said it couldn’t transport a cat less than six months old. Please check this page to read about Lifey and if you have any ideas for how to get her into the United States, Wendy would love to hear.
Lifey’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/Loveforlifey
Lifey’s video, also on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=255024897844786&oid=180585791997638&comments