SPEEDY's STORY

How Speedy came to our clinic

Speedy's mother was a stray cat living in a housing development outside of Millersville, Pennsylvania, USA.  His mother was keeping her kittens under an overgrown hedge that was owned by an elderly couple. Her kittens were born during the second week of July, 2000.  Since the couple could not trim the hedge and do other chores around the house, their son-in-law brought his family from England for a working visit.  While trimming the hedge, they discovered a cute black and white kitten that could not walk correctly.  They realized that his back legs were not normal, and thought it might have an injured spine.  Since they were concerned about the kitten, they placed it in a box on the picnic table overnight, until they could decide what to do.  The mother cat worried about her kitten in the box, and stayed under the table throughout the night.  She had already moved the rest of her family to another location.  The people were surprised that the kitten was still alive in the morning.  Still worried about it, they called a local animal rescue organization to come for him.

Speedy arrives at our clinic


The kitten was brought to The Lincoln Highway Veterinary Clinic in Lancaster, PA by a member of the rescue organization on August 5, 2000. A quick glance told the staff that he was very cute, and had been well cared for by his mother.  It was obvious that the 3-4 week old kitten was physically challenged on initial examination.  His hind legs, although having feeling in them, were limp, mis-shapen, and had joints that did not bend.  Otherwise, he was lively and seemed hungry.  His body development was perfect from the torso up, which included a marvelous face.  His eyes were a deep blue.  The whiskers were magnificent, long curving white bristles that could be the envy of any regal pretender to the best of show at any fancy breed exposition!  Eye contact seemed to be a natural part of this kitten's character.  What to do? After very little debate, Dr. Edwin Jeszenka and clinic staff decided to adopt the kitten with the stipulation that a more in depth analysis was needed to determine what his problem or problems really were.


Speedy's first few weeks

The kitten was brought to the clinic on a Saturday, so Linda Steinmetz, the office manager, took him home over the weekend to care for him and make sure he ate.  He was very hungry, since he had been away from his mother for a day, so he drank kitten milk replacer (KMR) from a syringe.  Next he was given some KMR in a dish, which he lapped up rather easily.  By the end of the weekend, he was eating KMR mixed with canned cat food!  Although kept in a box most of the time, he could move himslf around on smooth floors.  Cats as a rule, have a very strong gene pool.  Birth defects are very rare.  However, x-rays were taken during the first week, and it was discovered that this kitten had been born without a pelvic bone.  The only bones holding the hind legs to the body were very small remnants of bone where hip sockets should have developed.  The articulations held the legs close to the body.  There seemed to be very little muscle attachment to any structure that could allow coordination of leg movement.  There appeared to be a sensation or feeling in each limb, suggesting the presence of nerve function.  The rest of the body was considered normal, except for a slight enlargement of the heart.  Over the next week or two, it became apparent that the kitten did not know that he was "handicapped".  When let out of the box which he was usually kept in, he easily and quickly moved himself across smooth floors.  Rugs slowed him down somewhat, but he could still move around.  He was very curious, and wanted to investigate.  One minute he would be in one location, and the next minute he was somewhere else, and we had to search for him!  Because of how quickly he "disappeared", and how quickly he could "run" from one spot to another, we started to call him "Speedy".

Speedy's gets a cart to help him "walk"

As we watched him grow over those first weeks, we realized that he was not litter trained and that some areas of his body were always rubbing against the floor as he moved.  We were concerned that he might rub himself raw over a period of time.  Some sort of cart that lifted the rear half of his body off the floor seemed like a solution.  Dr. Jeszenka sketched his plans for a "wheel chair" or a tiny cart, in which the kitten's hind end could be strapped into to facilitate movement around the floor using front-end power provided by the kitten.  Linda used these sketches to build a cart out of K'NEX® toy parts.  It only took Speedy about a day to figure out how to use his cart.  It opened up a whole new world of curious exploration for him! As Speedy continues to grow, he is currently on his third cart (October, 2000), Modifications and improvements were made on each one, for comfort and stability.

Speedy as he grows

Speedy does not acknowledge that he is dysfunctional in any way.  His growth is following a normal pattern.  He loves to play.  He especially loves to chase shadows, bat and chase rolled up pieces of paper, and the plastic ties that hold bags shut.  Speedy has entertained visitors in the clinic waiting room, and enjoys playing with the crinkly type of plastic bags that make a lot of noise when rubbed or scrunched up.  He has learned to climb up and down steps that are carpeted, and can climb up onto furniture that is covered with cloth!  He jumps down from chair seats, and will use this technique to try to ambush Linda's neighbor's dog.  Speedy seems to like dogs if they are not too big and do not come at him too fast.  He is very good at playing by himself and inventing games, since we do not have any kittens his age at the clinic.  He likes to tease Benny, the other cat at the clinic, by batting his tail whenever Benny walks close to his hiding places.  Speedy purrs a lot and likes to play with people.  He is happy to be alive and to be loved by many friends.

Speedy and the press

Due to his rare condition, and the innovative approach of caring people who held his fragile life in their hands, Speedy's story has captured wide exposure through newspapers and by at least seven television stations.  Well wishers have send letters and donations for his care from as far away as Western Canada.  Speedy takes all this is stride, as if this is what every feline should be doing!  Updates are continually requested by Speedy's "fans and friends" worldwide.  Television and other media coverage continue, and this web site has been created to share his story, photos, and as a convenient way to send mail correspondence.

Click a Speedy wheel to visit pages.


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Story provided by Dr. Jeszenka and Linda Steinmetz. (Used with permission)
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