NORMAN — Smoke was an independent cat, jumping, running and investigating his neighborhood, until one day last December when he was hit by a car. Now, the 2-year-old Lynx point is disabled, and he doesn’t know there is a fundraising effort to buy him a wheelchair and find him a permanent home. The calm, blue-eyed cat has an abundance of love at the clinic where he lives. Christina Gillam, a pre-vet major at the University of Oklahoma, works at the Cat Clinic in Norman and helps care for Smoke. She and Lauren Hames co-wrote a poem and attached it to a donation container at the clinic. "We all work with him so his muscles don’t atrophy,” Gillam said. "We give him massages and try to get him to use his back legs. He’s such a sweetheart. If he has a wheelchair, it will make his life better. We don’t want him to scoot around on his tummy because there is danger of a urinary tract infection.” Due to his injuries, Smoke has to have his bladder expressed daily, and this is another reason why a special person is needed to adopt Smoke. Dr. Letrisa Miller, who is in charge of Smoke’s care, said, with a lot of work, there is a possibility Smoke could walk again. "The No. 1 killer of cats with spinal injuries is euthanasia,” Miller said. "It’s hard for people to wait for recovery, plus the cost of care. Nerves do repair as long as the nerve cell is not killed. His brain doesn’t understand where his back legs are. He is a special-needs cat who needs a dedicated owner, and he has ongoing medical costs.” Miller said Smoke had a loving owner who wanted to take him back home, but because of the care the cat requires and the presence of big dogs in the home, it wasn’t possible. "Smoke is a bright sunshine guy, and he is totally content with life,” she said. "Smoke is a playful, loving cat, and just because he doesn’t have the use of his back legs doesn’t mean he can’t be a great pet,” Gillam said. "I can’t wait to get him on his wheels so he can get around.”
A blue Doberman pinscher named Buddha was the inspiration for a device to help her keep going when her rear legs became disabled due to spondylosis, a disc disease. Eddie’s Wheels for Pets, a Massachusetts business that caters to the needs of handicapped pets, began in 1989 with a crude cart to help Buddha walk until she recovered. The owners realized there was a need for mobility carts, and the business began to grow. With each cart, Eddie Grinnell refined the original design to adapt to dogs with different needs, including dogs with arthritis or paralyzed legs. Leslie Grinnell said there are mobility carts for cats, too, and all carts are custom-made to suit the size and need of each pet. She said there are many ways to help animals continue to be mobile. Some pets, like Buddha, use the devices for a time and eventually recover. For more information, go online to www.eddieswheels.com.