GUELPH - A kitten born with only partial use of its hind legs is now able to get around much easier thanks to an animal lover with a big heart and a 3D printer.
Six-month-old kitten Carly was born with a condition called swimmer syndrome, which limits the use of her back legs, said foster owner Karen Boerner.
“She had no other health issues, other than her mobility issue,” said Boerner, who first took Carly in on Dec. 22.
“A lot of people want the healthy ones that are all perfect, but some people out there that want a cat with some challenges — generally people who have faced a challenge or two themselves and want to pay it forward,” said Boerner. “I have animal health experience, so I tend to take on the more unusual fostering cases.”
After making a post on Facebook asking for help to fit Carly with leg braces, Boerner was contacted by Andrew Cameron of Andosh Accessible Gaming in Guelph.
Cameron and his brother Josh run the company, which does video game console repairs and specializes in creating adaptable video game controllers for people with disabilities.
The brothers were born with a connective tissue disorder called hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. Cameron said the condition can cause his joints to become dislocated very easily and at times he loses some or all mobility in his hands.
“We have been wearing different splints and braces our whole lives,” said Cameron. “We heard about a kitten in need and I figured I had some unique skills that could probably help so we decided to see what we could do.”
Boerner brought Carly to the west-end home the company operates from to have measurements done for the braces.
Cameron consulted his orthadist to make sure he was on the right track as he custom-made the cat’s braces from scratch.
“They are animal lovers, as well,” said Boerner of the brothers. “They have a lot of knowledge about bracing but also about using the 3D printer.”
Carly was brought back later for a fitting.
“It took one person to hold her, one person to rub her ears and the third to actually put it on,” said Cameron.
After some initial hesitation, Carly was able to prop herself up on all four legs for the first time.
“She did quite well and I expect her to get better as she gets used to them,” said Boerner. “Now she’s showing off. She can now run up and down the stairs.”
Boerner said Carly didn’t have much muscle tone in her legs when she got her. She continues to exercise the cat as a sort of physiotherapy.
“I spend a lot of time working on her flexibility and getting her muscles developed,” she said.
Boerner said she has so far received three offers from people looking to take Carly in permanently.
“It’s looking like she will have a good forever home,” she said.
Cameron said Carly is not the first animal his family has helped. They have taken in a number of stray cats and a lovebird.
Boerner said Cameron was able to visualize exactly what Carly needed to produce the leg braces.
“He’s quite talented and has a great, big heart,” said Boerner.