July 05, 2022

Transformation Tuesday #78

Happy Transformation Tuesday! Today's post is going to be a little different; a reader named Kristi sent me this transformation and while it's a long read (what isn't on my blog?!), I'd really like to share it because it's such a heart-warming story. So, this is kind of going to read like a guest post with lots of photos. I was going to try to edit it down in order to do my usual Transformation Tuesday post, but I gave up because the story just isn't the same without the details! So I hope you enjoy this transformation as much as I did :)

This is kind of a double transformation! I moved to Philadelphia in the fall of 2018 with no family nearby. I had always been a cat lover but hadn't lived with a pet since I moved out of my parents' house for college. I really wanted a companion but I wasn't planning to stay in Philly for more than a couple years and didn't think adopting would be a smart choice. So in the spring of 2019, I began fostering cats through a local rescue (phillypaws.org). I fostered a few cats: 

Corrine - fat and feisty, loved to bite ankles

Alice the Truck Stop Waitress - the sweetest cat ever with very misleading RBF ("resting bitch face")

Draco - loved to sleep on my stomach at night, could jump from the floor to the top of the fridge

Guy - poor kitty had serious separation anxiety and was returned to me after being adopted once because he would cry all day while the owner was gone. He was adopted again by someone with another cat and is much happier with a companion. He would ride around the house on my shoulders and I wanted to adopt him so badly!

And, finally, Wacko! (Please excuse my laundry)

I picked up Wacko in May of 2020. He had just been returned to the shelter because he was peeing outside the litter box and because his medical complications were more extensive than the family could deal with. He had a cone because he had been fixed a few weeks prior but got a small infection in the incision.

His biggest complication was in his back legs. He had pretty severe arthritis that had led to the legs deteriorating. He was pretty skinny overall, but his back legs had almost no muscle mass. I gave him oral medicine for his infection and weekly gave him pain shots in his back legs. We also did some physical therapy exercises together to strengthen his legs which included lots of standing and jumping for treats.

After several weeks, we went to the vet and they said he was doing very well and just keep up the playing! He loves to run and jump and play now--almost too much to keep up with! His legs are almost completely normal but he has some quirks.

He had to learn how to jump with his front legs when his back legs were weak and he still uses them to jump then pull himself up into objects. He also lacks the typical cat ability to always land on his feet. He's very adventurous, so he often falls. And when he wants to scratch his ear, he doesn't know how to make his foot move to scratch. He will just stick his leg straight out, put his ear to it, and move his head up and down. He's very adventurous despite his limitations and really lives up to his name.

In the fall of 2020 I got engaged! My fiancé and I made plans to move in together and that life-change, along with the pandemic and a job offer, meant I was staying in Philly for a little while longer. I decided I was interested in adopting Wacko--how could I give him to someone else after what we'd been through?!

The complicating factor was that my fiancé had a dog. Leila is a pitbull and lab mix and is the sweetest dog ever! But she had no good experiences with cats and had been aggressive with other dogs in the past when she felt her food was threatened.

I told the shelter I was interested in adopting but asked if they could give me time to see if it was possible for Leila and Wacko to live together. We tried a couple initial meetings, through a closed door and then a baby gate. The meetings did not go very well. Leila was super excited and very alert to the small creature on the other side. Wacko was scared and not afraid to fight.

I agonized over what the right decision was for a couple weeks. I really didn't want to put either of them in a position where they weren't able to live their best life. Finally, I decided to make the leap and adopt--but I was still really unsure how it would turn out.

We moved in at the beginning of December 2020 but, due to some pandemic complications, Wacko had to stay with my former housemates until almost the end of the month. When we finally moved him in, Wacko got his own room.

We started slowly introducing them again. We started with the door closed. My fiancé and I would play with each of them and feed them on either side of the door so they got used to each other's presence. Then we used a baby gate and opened the door just a crack and slowly wider and wider over several days. Leila would still get really excited and sometimes frustrated that she was being held back.

Wacko eventually got more and more curious and would stick his arm through the holes to play and swat at her. Eventually we would let Wacko roam for a few minutes while Leila was sitting on the couch with us. That way she was in a relaxed position but we could easily hold her back if she wanted to lunge.

At some point we got stuck for a while with no progress. Life got busy and we slacked off on their training. Eventually, my fiancé said "we may have to accept that this isn't going to work, we should consider whether it's better for Wacko to go to another family." That hurt to hear, but he was right. Wacko was spending too much time closed off in one room for such an active, energetic kitty.

That reality check woke me up and I doubled down on the training, determined not to have to return him.

We all spent time together every day, getting just a little more exposure each time. I would sit in a doorway with each of them loose on either side of me and give them treats and love. We slowly taught Leila not to get fixated on him and to come to us for pets and cuddles instead. Eventually we were able to let them roam free with supervision. Then one day we went for a quick run to the store and left them alone together. I was so nervous for that 20 minutes but they were perfect angels! 

Mid-training, some of their first treats together without a barrier:

Leila and Wacko are now best friends! They've (mostly) learned each other's boundaries. Leila gets extra protective and grumpy at night so we don't leave them alone together after dark. And Leila is still possessive about food so we have to keep a watchful eye if we eat dinner on the couch.

But she's not too protective about her own food--Wacko loves to sneak bites of her kibble. Sometimes she'll shoo him away but most of the time she doesn't care. We moved to a new house a month ago and had some regression for a couple days as they adjusted to the new space, but now they're even closer than they were before. They nap together all day on the bed across from my now-husband's office. (We got married in April!)

Wacko is a bit of a bully sometimes but Leila just turns her head or nudges him away. He tries to get her to chase him by sprinting up to her, rubbing on her, then sprinting away.

My heart is so happy every time I see them lying next to each other or being really sweet to each other. There were several times I thought it may not work out but I'm so glad it did! This transformation is one of the things I'm most proud of in my life right now.

- Kristi

Kristi, I absolutely LOVE this story! Jerry and I nearly died laughing when I read that Wacko doesn't know how to scratch his ears with his hind legs, so he rubs his head against his foot. That's so sad and cute at the same time! I am so happy that you were a foster mom to cats who needed you and that Wacko has found so much happiness in his new home. You guys are such great and patient pet-parents! Thank you for taking such good care of him <3  -Katie


  1. This is beautiful and made me cry, LOL 💞

  2. I love people who adopt/rescue pets! They look so cute together. Thank you both for being so patient with training them to be best friends!

  3. This was such a great and heartwarming story! I love hearing animal success stories! And both of these guys are sooo cute!!

  4. Such a sweet story! Thank you for sharing Kristi!

  5. I just can't love this enough. Thank you for being the kind of person who would put in the hard work to make this happen. Also, congratulations on your marriage!

  6. So wonderful thank you for sharing!

  7. What a great transformation! Kuddos to Kristi for putting in the time on this transformation!

  8. Amazing story. Love how patient and loving both you and your husband were/are with your pets.


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