Loving Foster Mom Takes in Flea-Ridden Kittens with Manx Syndrome, Nurses Them Back To Health
In November, Anna Dickerson-Homan (of @kittenfactory) was scrolling through Facebook when she came across a tragic video of two barn kittens, who were covered in fleas, emaciated, and very, very cold. The user was giving the sibling cats away for free. Dickerson-Homan didn't even take time to think about it, she commented that she would take the kittens and use her rescue resources to give them the care they desperately needed.
She drove two hours south to pick them up, and the rest is history! "I knew that if I didn't act on them quickly, most likely they would be surrendered to a shelter or worse, and I just couldn't stand that," she says.
Although these would be Dickerson-Homan's first special needs fosters, she had two years of fostering experience under her belt.
After rescuing her first cat, Lola, in 2014, Dickerson-Homan says she had a nagging feeling that "I can be doing more for animals like that." After moving to Austin, Texas, she volunteered with the Bottle Baby Program at Austin Pets Alive! Their neonatal kitten nursery saves 4,000 kittens on average per year. "I was blown away by the impact that they had, and I realized that my impact could be amplified if I decided to foster," she says.
Now living in Northern Michigan, she works with Claws and Paws in West Branch. The rescue is located in a rural, remote area where people regularly give animals away for free on Facebook. The two kittens Dickerson-Homan found on Facebook were located on a farm in Ithaca, Mich.
Upon arriving at the property in November, Dickerson-Homan found the kittens in very poor condition. The property owner was not spaying and neutering their cats, and the kittens both had congenital defects as a result of inbreeding. Dickerson-Homan had been told that the kittens were 8 weeks old and eating hard food, but right away she knew this was a lie. "Many people share that to get animals adopted quicker," she says. In fact, the kittens had been eating dog food.
Both kittens clearly had Manx Syndrome, a genetic condition that affects spinal development and causes a shortened spine and little to no tail. The female kitten had deformities, ingrown claws, and rectal issues.
Once Dickerson-Homan and the kittens made it home, she built a quarantine area for them. As she does with all of her fosters, she kept the kittens away from her two resident cats for two weeks. "Getting them food, water, and warmth was the first step," she says. She gave them topical flea treatments and bathed them after three days.
"They went from sleeping in hay bales to sleeping in the finest blankets that the kitten factory has to offer," Dickerson-Homan says. "They were not quite used to that." They also weren't used to a regular feeding schedule. However, once they adjusted to their new routine, Dickerson-Homan says they totally came out of their shells.
Dickerson-Homan knew that taking in these kittens would be extremely expensive. "I wanted to make sure that I did everything I could to support them and give them the medical care I promised them they would get," she says. To fundraise for the kittens' care, they held a naming fundraiser. She came up with name options for the public to vote on.
"I was like, 'Wouldn't it be funny if we named them after my mom and dad, Bart and Lisa?'" She thought that no one would choose that pair of names, but likely because of the connection to the Simpsons, Bart and Lisa won by a landslide.
Bart was always calm and chill. "He's relaxed and chill, until he's not," Dickerson-Homan says. He likes to be pampered and doted on but hates vaccines and getting his nails trimmed. Lisa is extremely sweet, innocent, and trusting. "If there was a Disney character built into a kitten, it would be Lisa," she says. The kittens have a classic older brother-little sister relationship.
Lisa has especially bonded with Dickerson-Homan's husband (aka Foster Dad). Lisa has kyphosis (spine curves backwards to forwards versus side to side as with scoliosis), and it's pinching part of her spine and causing her to not use her paws correctly. She gets paw and wrist massages every day to keep her tendons healthy and encourage them to grow. "[Foster Dad] is only allowed to do that, she doesn't let me do it," Dickerson-Homan says.
Lisa has more issues than Bart because she has less of a spinal cord. Her recovery has surprised all of the specialists Dickerson-Homan has brought her to. A neurologist told her, "Based on her disposition and her personality, I have been changing my prognosis from extremely guarded to optimistic."
Because of Dickerson-Homan's advocacy and love, both kittens have made a miraculous recovery. Adoption applications were just opened for Bart this week. Although she would love to keep Lisa, Dickerson-Homan recognizes the endless need to continue fostering. "I need to find a very special home for her," she says. Lisa will likely be ready to go to her forever home in March.
"We really would like to find someone who is open to the unknown, who can roll with the punches, and is going to love her and give her A+ medical care for as long as she's alive," she says. "It's so rewarding to adopt a pet with special needs."