When I first met Ming I could see right away that she’s different. She stumbles side to side as she walks like a small, delicate boat caught in a bad storm. She seemed to be so fragile, and I felt a little sorry for her. I wanted to pick her up and hold her every time she fell down. I assumed she would be shy and fearful of the world around her. I expected her to be extremely limited by her disabilities, but during the six months I fostered her, she shattered all of my assumptions and showed me a whole new way of looking at life’s obstacles.
Ming was born with a neurological disorder called Cerebellar Hypoplasia. This condition is caused by a damaged or underdeveloped cerebellum and results in poor motor control and awkward jerky movements. The disorder does not worsen over time, is not contagious, and is in no way painful. Although there is no cure, cats with CH enjoy a good quality of life and have a normal life expectancy.
In addition to her wobbly walking, Ming is also partially blind, so some special safety considerations are required to keep her from accidently hurting herself. Pointy corners may need to be padded; a baby gate should block the stairs, and anything she could knock over needs to be secured. Once all major hazards have been addressed, Ming learns quickly to adapt to her environment. She walks with a wide stance to compensate for her clumsiness, and leans against walls for extra stability. Ming never worries about doing things as well or as fast as other cats. She is content to meet life’s challenges on her own terms and solve problems at her own pace.
My favorite Ming moment was when she noticed one of my cats batting around a little toy and chasing it all over the room. It was just a small pink plastic ball with a tiny jingle bell inside, but she was fascinated by it and stood nearby watching intensely. When my cat had finished playing, Ming teetered over to the toy and examined it very closely. After a few minutes of contemplation she began trying to roll the ball around. First she tried nudging it with her nose. Then she made several failed attempts at hitting it with her paw.
All the while I could see her analyzing the results of her efforts, learning through trial and error, and improving her technique with each attempt until finally finding success! The ball rolled along the floor jingling and Ming’s whole body trembled with excitement. I could just imagine her thoughts “I did it! I made that toy make the jingle noise!” The ball actually only moved about ten inches but to her it sailed across the floor for miles. It was a small round plastic testament to her unyielding persistence.
When you first meet Ming you will see right away that she is different, but you may need to look very closely to see why. Because within that small, delicate body is an invincible giant who carries herself with a graceful dignity and heroic determination shared only by the most celebrated champions. Do not feel sorry for her… she has no use for pity, and do not be afraid for her… she is braver than you can imagine. No matter how many times she falls, she will always get right back on her feet and charge ahead with a fiery spirit and courage unmatched by any other cat (or human) I’ve ever known. And whenever I encounter an obstacle in my life and need courage to overcome it, I think of Ming, that little pink plastic toy and my favorite quote from Louisa May Alcott. “I am not afraid of storms for I am learning to sail my ship.”
Colleen cared for Ming for several months through the Richmond SPCA’s Meet the Fosters program. If you'd like to meet Ming, call the adoption desk at 804-521-1307. To find out more about becoming a foster care provider, visit www.richmondspca.org/foster. To read the biographies of our regular bloggers, please click here. Before posting a comment, please review our comment guidelines. Please note that our comment policy requires a first and last name to be used as your screen name.