“Banjo” A Wobbly Cat Gets a Chance at a Full Life and Finds Home for the Holidays 12/18/2020 By Kerry S The holidays are a time for giving, being grateful for what we have, and generous with what we can give. At Pet Haven, we are grateful to have been given the opportunity to care for Banjo. Helping this wonderful and wobbly boy find his strength and family of his own despite his challenges and what people may see as a disability has been one of the highlights of the year. Banjo’s story is a testament to perseverance and inclusion. That a patient loving home is possible for even the ones that struggle and need a bit of extra support. Don’t we all need that sometimes? Meet Banjo. Or as we call him Mr. Wobble. Banjo was found outside in the cold struggling to get up. He could not stand upright and had leg tremors causing him to constantly move. He was brought into a northern Minnesota rural shelter where they determined he was approximately 2 years old and weighed just under 3 pounds. He looked like a kitten even though he was fully grown. The shelter determined that he may have cerebellar hypoplasia. Cerebellar hypoplasia is a is an unusual neurological disorder as a result of interrupted development of the brain, leading to uncoordinated movement or ataxia. This is caused by the pregnant mother becoming infected with panleukopenia virus a disease that can be avoided with proper vaccinations. Generally, rural shelters do not have the capacity to care for special needs animals such as Banjo so they will often reach out to Pet Haven for help. We are known for taking challenging cases and going where it is needed most. We do not discriminate. We took one look at this adorable little guy and said “yes.” We knew we needed an experienced foster that could support his special needs and understand and appreciate the uniqueness that is Banjo. Our Cat Division Managers, Julie and Brandon Urban, stepped up for the job! We thought we knew all there was to know about Banjo and his condition but once he arrived we realized his diagnoses may not be correct. It appeared as tho his vision was compromised and he could not stop moving his front legs and he could barely stand and fell down all the time. He had to be held to eat so his feet would stop moving. His wobble was more of depth perception, balance issues, and weakness than what cerebellar hypoplasia presents as. We made an appointment with a feline specialist and found out Banjo was the victim of a traumatic incident to his brain. Banjo had TBI, Traumatic Brain Injury, and not CH. As a result of this information, we shifted gears in his care plan to accommodate these findings. Julie and Brandon began a rehabilitation program that mirrored ones used for people with TBI. Rehabilitation designed for traumatic brain injury channels the body’s natural healing abilities and the brain’s relearning processes so an individual may recover as quickly and efficiently as possible and involves learning new ways to compensate for abilities that have permanently changed due to brain injury. The focus of rehabilitation is to enable individuals to perform their activities of daily living (ADLs) safely and independently so they can move on to other forms of rehabilitation and transition to their home. Banjo began his journey to recovery through rehabilitation and love. While there were no guarantees his condition would improve we needed to give him a chance at the best life he could have. They started him on high-quality food rich in protein and fatty acids. They made him a special litter box that helped him stand. They began physical rehabilitation with stretching and strengthening exercises. They created a brain engagement program using interactive toys helping to improve Banjos his mobility and even tho his vision was compromised they came up with a visual tracking game that improved his sight. The fosters were a little concerned at first to introduce him to their resident cats but eventually, even the cats helped with Banjos rehabilitation. They would encourage him to play in the sweetest softest way. They seemed to know he was special but still treated him as one of the family. Having the other felines help him seemed to speed up his progress. Banjo started to shine! So much so he went from barely walking to running. From constant twitching of his front legs to more controlled movement and even stopped twitching most of the time. His recovery was inspiring and reminded us all how commitment and persistence can really pay off. How love and acceptance can heal. And how inclusion improves our lives. Banjo improved so well and as hard as it was to make the decision to place him up for adoption we decided to see if there was a match. We put the search out for his purr-fect family and we could not have found a better one! This is from Banjo’s adopter’s application; “I have been looking for a cat to join our family, but each one just wasn’t quite right. When I read Banjo’s story I fell in love. I am an epileptic and although it has been years since I had a seizure, I understand the struggles as well as appreciate how unique he is because of it.” Banjo is surrounded by love, compassion, and understanding every day. He has feline and canine companions that help him on his journey of recovery and a family of 4 humans. We are honored to help him on his way. If you would like to help others like Banjo please consider a gift to support our mission today. Any amount is deeply appreciated. If you would like to learn more about Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) click here.