Corky, a stray cat born with a rare congenital birth defect was set to be euthanized in Fargo, N.D. He was given a new lease on life when he was picked up at a local shelter, Cat's Cradle, at the end of March.
Corky was born with a genetic deformity called bilateral arthrogryposis of the tarsus, where his legs were backwards and overlapping.
Cat's Cradle co-founders Gail Ventzke, Amber Schaffer and Carol Stefonek fell in love with the kitten when they were scheduled to pick up two others.
They took him immediately to get radiographs to see what they were dealing with and realized they needed to operate right away. They called around to a "couple different vets and they didn't want to touch him," said Ventzke. They took him to the Casselton Veterinary Service where Dr. Dan Burchill agreed to operate on the 8-month-old kitten.
Unaware of his condition, Corky was a "happy, healthy, engaging, fun cat who dragged his back legs around," said Burchill.
After considering all options, like amputating him and putting him in a wheel chair, Burchill determined he would be able to surgically fix his legs.
A rare disease in cats, the condition was more common in cattle, said Burchill. After practicing for 17 years, he had performed the surgery before on dogs, but never cats.
"Dr.Burchill is our hero…he customized the surgery for Corky," said Ventzke.
The operation took four hours and cost roughly $1,000 an hour including medication and surgical fees. It was successful, and Corky's more severely affected right leg is doing "fabulous." The left leg had a few anatomy problems and was stabilized with a pin.
Estimated to cost only $2,500, the surgery costs have not affected Ventzke. She says "We'll fund raise until we cover it. He's such a great little guy, he's such a great spirit and he has a great purpose and we'll do whatever we can to get him back up on his feet."
Corky's rehab, which includes acupuncture and hydrotherapy, is slow and steady. An hour per day is spent on his rehabilitation. The shelter's co-founders drive 50 miles round-trip every day to visit the kitten.
"It's like training a person's who's never walked to get up on his feet. We stand them first for 5 or 10 minutes," said Burchill. He thinks the kitten should be fully recovered in six months and describes his progress as "encouraging." Burchill is the only doctor who treats Corky and comes to see him on his weekends off to dress his wounds.
Corky, the little cat who couldn't walk, is already standing on his own and is able to take several steps. The shelter's Facebook page has already garnered donations for the cat's rehab from almost every state as well as countries around the world. Ventzke updates the page daily for all of Corky's fans.
Despite requests for adoption, the shelter has decided that after his recovery he will spend the day at the shelter and the evenings at Ventzke's home. They hope to have him certified as a therapy pet and comfort people recovering from surgery.