Cats are, by instinct, independent, skillful creatures. As anyone who has tried to tame a feral cat accustomed to life in the wild knows, felines have an indominable survival instinct and are built to be fast, agile and fierce. Cats can hide utterly still one moment and spring into action the next to take down prey. They can stalk, hunt, evade and survive in extreme circumstances. Reliance on humans is a learned behavior, and some animals who would perish in the wild are instead able to thrive due to a human’s care and compassion. When a cat has an accident, particularly one that renders it without use of its legs, its very survival is at stake. That is, unless, a kind person or organization takes the initiative to make the disabled kitty’s life as comfortable and “normal” as possible. Poor Joe, an orange tabby cat, was found making his way around town the best he could on his two front legs. After trusting a good Samaritan enough to be picked up, he was taken to a pet rescue organization, Meow Village, an Oregon organization dedicated to rehabilitating and rehoming cats. That is where his journey to a new life began from just stray cat Joe to a new life as “Turbo Joe”.
Joe received medical treatment and was ready for the biggest step of all, finding a good, safe home. He was matched with Sheila Burdick, a first-time pet foster parent who had previously adopted two other cats with challenges. Her other two cats are still in her home and doing very well, each partially blind due to missing an eye. The ideal temporary residence for a cat who needs some extra attention! The chance to bond with a new foster parent and two feline siblings to keep him on his toes! So, it was a stellar day when Joe went to live in with Sheila Burdick in Tigrid, Oregon. Joe finally had a safe, loving placed to stay, but not a forever home. He was soon to go up for adoption. He also still had physical challenges because he could not use his hind legs. He could “skootch” himself around on the floor, over to the food bowl, but all of that work is exhausting for a little cat. An organization called “Back on Track Veterinary Rehabilitation Center”, stepped in to help.
Back on Track Veterinary Rehab Center (or BOTVRC) is a non- profit organization that specializes in physical rehabilitation of pets who due to accidents, illness or neglect need special care. They designed a customized cat wheelchair that Joe can operate so that he doesn’t have to drag his legs behind him. In a news story posted on Myfox8.com, Turbo Joe is seen going about his daily routine. Joe, like any other kitty, enjoys batting around his toys and exploring his environment. The cat does pretty well even without a wheelchair, as he is seen in the video playing while seated and pulling himself up the stairs with amazing finesse. Now that he has his own custom wheelchair, which straps on like a harness, he is ready for his next phase of rehabilitation.
According to Ms. Burdick in the news video, Turbo Joe had some adjustments to make to get used to using his mobility aid. The wheelchair is not motorized or electronic, so like humans who have adapted to using a manually powered wheelchair, Joe must get the hang of it. This includes building up his core body strength, a skill he is working on daily. He is also dubbed “The Village Warrior” due to his association with Meow Village and his dogged (excuse the pun) determination to keep up with the other cats.
Turbo Joe is also enjoying the life of a social media celebrity while he waits for his forever family to claim him. He has his own Instagram page. There you can see photos posted by Ms. Burdick showing Joe and her other fabulous cats playing games, snuggling and just being totally adorable. Turbo Joe, like most cats, enjoys having his fur rubbed and sitting on laps soaking up attention. His only frustration point is when he sees other cats blithely jump up on the furniture and he can’t follow. Still, Joe gets plenty of entertainment and exercise and he doesn’t let what he can’t do get him down. How could he when surrounded with so much love? Meow Village is hoping that he is adopted by a pet parent as caring and attentive as Sheila Burdick, his foster mom.
This is only one cat’s incredible journey from a tragic accident, a fortunate rescue, and the stellar shelter lucky cats receive in foster care. Meow Village has placed almost five hundred cats with homes and have relocated just as many feral felines. Still, there are so many truly awesome cats who need medical attention and a chance for a loving home. With the rise of the stray cat population, with numbers increasing daily, rescue organizations can’t do it all. They rely on volunteers who work in the pet rescue facility, veterinarians who are generous with their time and resources, and people who will open their homes to be temporary or permanent guardians to cats, particularly those with disabilities who need that extra bit of care and attention.
Although cat wheelchairs seem like a novel invention, they have been around for quite a while. You can order one premade on Amazon, or if you are a do it yourself enthusiast, you can build one yourself using step by step instructions provided by Instructables.com . For those who don’t have a cat with special needs, a donation of a cat or dog wheelchair is a great way to make a difference. To find a recipient, it’s probably as easy as contacting your local veterinarian or pet rescue. With the whole Meow Village team of volunteers helping to find a good home for him through rehabilitation, pet advocacy, and media exposure, Turbo Joe’s luck is bound to continue.