Sometimes in our lives, we encounter situations where, try as we might to do all the right things, we just don’t have the resources to accomplish the task. In those cases, it takes courage and the ability to let go to do what’s best. In this case, I’m speaking about the story of Psi, the little kitten adopted by twenty-two year old Bailey (mother to special needs D’Artagnan and Princess) less than a year ago.
Stricken with spina bifida, Psi is unable to walk and has numerous problems with incontinence that have left her with a painfully sore bottom and medical needs beyond what Bailey was able to provide for at home. So Bailey did what she had to do: She relinquished Psi’s care to Tabby’s Place, a home for all cats and kittens, especially those with medical issues, where Psi could get the daily care she needed to one day become well enough to live pain free.
Many of us couldn’t imagine having to part with our baby, but Bailey did, not because she didn’t love Psi, but because she loved her enough to give her what she needed to recover, even if it wasn’t in her own home. We asked Bailey a few questions about her choice, and here’s what she had to say:
Recently, you made the difficult decision to bring your special needs kitty Psi to Tabby’s Place for care. Can you tell me a bit about her special needs?
Psi has Spina Bifida. Her spine did not form normally, which resulted in an abnormally formed tail, and external genitalia – her anus and vulva are very close together, with almost no space in between. According to the vet who spayed her, her internal reproductive organs looked normal (I got to watch the spay, and see her uterus myself!). She is also described as paraparetic – partially paralyzed in her hind legs. She has one leg that she keeps scrunched up close to her body, and one leg that I affectionately call a ‘hockey stick leg,’ because it sticks out straight, and reminds me of a hockey stick. She also appears to have a bone spur on her scrunched up foot, which is the one she puts most of the pressure on when walking. It has broken through the skin, and it starting to create a callous, so it is painful for her to walk. Psi also has chronic diarrhea. We are unsure of the cause of it and have been working for months trying different medications, diets, and tests. Because of her chronic diarrhea, she has needed to wear a diaper. Unfortunately because of this, her bottom became pretty raw and sore, despite being changed, washed, and having creams applied multiple times a day.
At what point did you start considering relocating Psi to a home that could better meet her needs?
She came into my care in late July of 2013, at which point I was living in Calgary. Up until that point, her condition remained pretty much the same. Mid-December was when she split open the spot on her foot with the bone spur. I started noticing a deterioration in her condition. Her foot wasn’t getting better, and her bottom was getting worse. The raw area started to expand, and started to bleed more than it had before. After about a month, I hadn’t seen any improvement and began to question her quality of life. I noticed she wasn’t playing any more, she screamed whenever I washed her, she wasn’t socializing with D’Arty or Princess, my other two paraplegics, and she wasn’t moving around like she did before. One night while I was getting ready for work, I went to put her diaper on after I washed her and she was bleeding a lot more than normal and was screaming worse than I had ever heard before. That’s when it really sunk in how much pain she must be in and I burst out crying. My dad came in the living room after hearing her wails, took one look and me and started crying, too.
I will admit, initially, my first thought was to put her down, so that I could put her out of her misery and pain. I had done everything I could to help her, but she still wasn’t getting better. I just didn’t want her to suffer any more. But the more I thought about it (with a clearer head), the more I didn’t want it to have to come to that. I reached out to Lisa, who I corresponded with regarding Psi’s adoption. I explained everything to her, and asked her opinion. They deferred the decision to me. I asked the opinions of both my vet in Calgary and Ontario, and again it fell back onto me. ‘If only I could stay home with her and not work’ was what kept crossing my mind. One day, I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner, I wondered to myself if Tabby’s Place would take her. In the beginning of February I emailed Operations Manager there. A couple days later, she got back to me saying that they would absolutely consider it, but just needed to talk it over with their vets there to evaluate her quality of life and see if they felt Psi’s condition was manageable and if there was anything additional they could think of that I hadn’t already tried. Even though it wasn’t a definite yes, I burst out crying. I was so thankful that she at least stood a chance to get better. I believe it was the next day I got an email with an offer to take her. The email also included some additional things I could try at home, to make her more comfortable while deciding if I was going to take her to Tabby’s Place or send her across ‘Rainbow Bridge’.
I have no doubt the decision was a difficult one for you. What was the deciding factor in finalizing your decision to bring Psi to Tabby’s Place?
Once Tabby’s Place decided they would take her, there was no question that she would be going there eventually. It was just a matter of when. I had trouble coming to terms with the idea of being apart from her. I had dedicated so much time and effort to caring for her. I knew she would be in great hands – they cared for Dot, a kitten with Spina Bifida, so I knew they had the experience, but I couldn’t bear to part with her just yet. I told Tabby’s Place that I wanted to try all the things they suggested before giving her up, and they were very supportive. I corresponded with their vet and got a couple of ideas to try. Two weeks had gone by and I wasn’t seeing any improvement with the suggestions they gave. I thought I’d try just a little longer, but still nothing. So by the end of February, I had decided it was time for Psi to go to Tabby’s Place and booked time off work. We began our journey on Sunday, March 9th – a 9 hour drive from Toronto to NJ- and dropped her off the next day.
What advice can you offer to other people who may have an animal they’re caring for and are considering re-homing?
Most of the time, I am against re-homing pets. I think re-homing should be the last resort, not the first. I think there are a lot of people who re-home for selfish reasons and don’t fully understand the commitment having a pet takes when they initially get one. I see posts online all the time about not having time anymore for their pet, or moving and can’t bring said pet with them for whatever reason. To me personally, these are not reasons that I would re-home a pet, but every situation is different. Regardless of the reason, it is always a tough decision. I needed to separate my wants and needs from hers, and try to objectively decide what would be in Psi’s best interest, not mine. I think it’s a decision that takes time and should not be taken lightly. You don’t need to make the decision alone. Talk about it. Talk to friends and family as they may be able to offer alternative suggestions. Ultimately, you need to do what’s best for you and your pet. If that means re-homing, take the time to do it properly. I’m sure you wouldn’t let a random person that walked up to you babysit your kids, so don’t just give your pet up to the first person that is willing to take them. Try and make sure it would be a good fit – especially if it’s for a pet with special needs.
I was recently messaging one of Tabby’s Place’s volunteers, telling her that I think I have finally come to terms with letting Psi go. I feel more relief than anxiety now. I’m not mourning my “loss” of her any more. While I still miss her terribly and still expect to see her little head poke around the corner whenever I come home from being out, I know she is getting the care she needs and deserves. So even though the decision was extremely difficult, I know in my heart it was the right choice.
Do you think that Psi will ever be ready for a home outside of a facility with on-site medical care? Do you think that home will be with you?
I’m confident Tabby’s Place will be able to make her comfortable, and help her get better. It may take a while, but I believe it will eventually happen. If her diarrhea could get regulated, she would be much happier and not need constant care. Eventually, I like to think she will come home to me once she gets better. There’s no question that I would welcome her back with open arms, but that is a decision ultimately to be made by Tabby’s Place. If someone else was interested in adopting her, I know Tabby’s Place would take extra care when selecting a family for her because of the care she requires. I trust their judgement. They did have Dot after all, and she has been adopted by a wonderful family.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I received an update from Tabby’s Place, and the woman who fostered Dot while she was being quarantined is the same lady fostering Psi during her quarantine. I’ve been told Psi is doing great, she is sweet and playing again and eating well. Her bottom seems a little better. They are accepting donations towards her care, so if anyone wants to help out, they are more than welcome.
In our eyes, Bailey is a courageous and loving young woman with a giant heart. We applaud her careful, thoughtful decision about Psi’s care and have no doubt she did what was best, not for her, but for Psi. We thank her for so candidly sharing her story with us and hope that her experience can inspire others to do what’s best, not easiest, for the companions in their lives.
Alana and Crepes.
*This was edited for length and copy, but not content, by Alana Grelyak. Photos provided by Bailey Maitland and Tabby’s Place.*
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