Lori Hobson DiFiglia – a veterinary technician for the University Of Pennsylvania’s shelter medicine program – works with animals every single day through her work with UPenn and unpaid work as a volunteer at ACCT Philly.
So it says a lot when an animal stands out to her. But that’s exactly what Ducky the cat did.
“I was volunteering in surgery at ACCT, and one of the vet nurses asked me to come and meet a special kitten,” DiFiglia told us. When DiFiglia laid eyes on Ducky the cat, she was captivated immediately. With her legs spread out wide behind her, the 3-month-old cat waddled from side-to-side like a baby duck. Ducky had no idea she was different, though. She wanted what most cats want.
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“Ducky was rolling around on her back, and reaching out with her paws to solicit attention,” DiFiglia said.
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Due to her unique medical condition, Ducky was promoted by ACCT as rescue-only. This decision was made for Ducky, and others like her, because it’s unethical to adopt out an animal whose medical future is so uncertain.
“Not knowing what her medical bills would amount to, it’s difficult for rescues that are already full and underfunded to take on these cases,” DiFiglia began. “She was sadly out of options. It only took meeting her to know that she had a spirit that could survive and just needed a chance.”
And thus, Ducky became DiFiglia’s happy foster kitty. But this was just the beginning of Ducky’s journey.
In the coming months, Ducky would face a number of medical difficulties. “After I brought her home, I took her to our personal vet for X-rays. It appeared that she had a partially crushed spine.” They took the cat to a chiropractor but it didn’t seem have much effect. Eventually, after ensuring that Ducky would be OK, DiFiglia approved Ducky for spinal surgery. Before surgery, however, Ducky found herself in another messy situation.
“In the meantime, while climbing on top of some shelves, Ducky got her leg caught and fractured the femoral head on her hind leg.”
“The next step was a neurologist, who found a cyst on her spine that he felt may be causing the abnormal gait and the incontinence.” One might think that DiFiglia would be discouraged and frustrated, but she explained that Ducky’s spirit and willpower were so strong that she simply couldn’t give up or slow down.
Ducky was a star in DiFiglia’s home, behaving as any other cat would. “Ducky takes on our 90 pound dog as an equal, soliciting play, and bouncing off of his body like a pinball,” she said. “She is the first to welcome new fosters with a positive greeting and a 'let me show you around' proposition. She is happiest surrounded by people and other animals."
Ducky has had her surgeries but still has some of her unique quirks. “She still walks like an adorable duck. She still needs a little help to fully empty her bladder, and if you want to keep your floors from getting soggy, she still needs to wear a darling tiny cat diaper. Her personality is still remarkable.”
Ducky is waiting for her forever home, though, not so patiently, DiFiglia reports. “Many potential adopters come to meet the animals that we have in foster care. Most of them bring a carrier to take their new friends home in. Ducky dives into every open carrier and refuses to get out without doing battle. I believe this is her way of saying, ‘Pick me!’”
Neither ACCT nor DiFiglia will give up on Ducky. She’s inspiring everyone she meets simply by being her happy, courageous self. “Ducky reminds me every day that 'normal' has nothing to do with being happy, and that adaptability is key to survival.”
People are often intimidated by adopting special needs cats, believing them to be too much work. But if you ask DiFiglia, cats like Ducky are worth it. “There is a special adopter for every special cat, they just need an advocate and a little time to find each other.”