+ How did Scooter become paralyzed? What kind of paralysis does she have?
When Scooter was found at 4 weeks old, her paralysis was already apparent, although it looked like she might be able to learn to walk, because her legs hadn't stiffened yet. So, we know that Scooter was either born this way (my personal belief) or she injured her spine sometime in her first 4 weeks of life.
We got an x-ray done and it revealed a deformation of her spine at the bottom of her ribcage. This finding affirmed the paralysis that Scooter exhibits. In humans, the nerves that control leg motion start at the spinal level L1, which is the first vertebra under the ribcage. I don't know much cat anatomy, but I'm sure it's similar. So, Scooter's spinal deformity most likely causes a nerve injury that prevents the conscious use of her legs. From what I've learned in school, it seems to be an upper motor neuron paralysis, which causes the legs to be nonfunctional, but they still move in a spastic fashion. If you've seen Scooter scoot, you'll notice that her hind legs almost look like they're trying to walk as she moves, but that motion is probably driven by reflexes and is not controlled by Scooter consciously.
Click here to see the x-ray! (Will not open in a new tab if not done manually.)
+ Will Scooter ever be able to walk again?
In all likelihood, no. The bottom line is that Scooter has a spinal cord problem that gives her no control over her legs. Prosthetic legs, acupuncture, stretching, or water therapy will not help Scooter. Even if they could, her legs are so stiffened and atrophied from disuse that restoring them to regular condition would be too labor intensive to even try. Sorry folks, this cat is staying paralyzed!
+ What is Scooter's bathroom/litterbox situation? Can she go to the bathroom on her own?
Scooter has no control over her bladder or her bowels. I express her bladder 4 times each day: Once when we wake up, once before lunch, once before dinner, and once before bed. This basically involves me squeezing her bladder until it releases urine, either into the toilet or the sink (which I clean immediately afterward). It actually quite easy to do once you get the hang of it, and once you overcome the fear of hurting your pet. Scooter has little to no feeling below her ribcage, so she doesn't complain when I express her bladder. I normally try to express her bladder every 4 hours (which comes out to 4x/day), because her bladder normally accumulates plenty of urine in that time. However, Scooter's bladder can last up to 10-12+ hours without being expressed, although with that, we do run the risk of some urine leakage, but that hasn't happened in months.
Click here to watch me express Scoot's bladder (Will not open in new tab if not done manually.)
For pooping, I apply a similar technique to the bladder expressions, but there is a difference. I don't try to squeeze out the poop, rather, I apply gentle pressure to the sides of her abdomen (I can usually feel if her colon is full when I check her bladder size), and I gently stroke toward her rear end in a rhythmic fashion. This stimulates the nerves in her colon/rectum enough that they take over on their own and push out the poop! It's actually pretty cool physiologically, because her nerve injury in her spine doesn't disable her enteric nervous system in her gut, which is responsible for propelling digested food through the GI tract. All it needs is a little encouragement, and it can finish the job on its own!
+ Why doesn't Scooter have a wheelchair?
First of all, I'll start by saying that I don't think Scooter "needs" a wheelchair. Could it help her get around? Sure. Is it a practical item to use constantly indoors? I don't think so.
Scooter gets around remarkably well on her own, and while I show a lot of her more active moments on instagram, she actually is fairly sedentary a lot of the time. A wheelchair wouldn't be practical for continuous indoor use, because ultimately Scooter just wants to find a comfy place to lie down. That, coupled with the fact that she has never gotten carpet burns, or even thinning of her fur on her hing legs, makes me very unlikely to see the practicality of an indoor scooter for Scooter.
That being said, I think that a wheelchair would be great for going outdoors. I think Scooter is afraid of being outside, but I think that giving her a vehicle to move around could help her overcome that fear. I've been communicating with a third party to get Scooter a wheelchair. It'll provide for some great photos once we get it!
+ Why is Scooter declawed?
Scooter is only declawed in her hind paws, and it was for her own good. Her claws were getting caught on the carpet and furniture, and I was afraid that she was going to injure herself, because she couldn't get them unstuck, and it looked like her claws were about to be yanked out when this happened. I can assure you that everything I do for Scooter is with her best interest in mind. She doesn't miss her back claws; she barely knew she had them, and she was never going to use them anyway. If declawing my cat in this context makes me a monster, then I'm alright with that.
+ Does Scooter have any other health issues?
Yes, and basically all of them are related to her paralysis. The main health concern for Scooter is urinary tract infections (UTIs). Because Scooter's urine remains stagnant within her bladder between bladder expressions, she is prone to developing infections. I take Scooter to the vet about every 3 months to get a urinalysis, and she has come back positive for a UTI every time. She clears the infection with antibiotics every time as well, but obviously we'd like for them to stay gone, which they don't.
We've tried a handful of things to prevent UTIs, but so far none of them have worked. Right now, the best we can do is to keep her hydrated, so I add water to her wet food (special urinary care wet food). According to our vet, there aren't any clinically proven ways to prevent UTIs in Scooter's situation, so for now, we are just going to do our best to prevent them, as well as get her regular urinalyses.
Other than the UTIs, Scooter is largely a happy, healthy cat. I listen to her vets, who generally approve of the life I'm giving Scooter. I don't think that health issues or disabilities determine the worth of an animal's or person's life, but I will try to keep her in the best health that she can achieve!