Merida at 3 weeks oldLife with Merida is challenging. While I never thought this would be something I would ever sign up for, I have come to love and adore my little Merida. Our life is full of trials, pain, and celebration all on a constant, crazy, loop. You see, Merida is a wonderful four-year-old mixed breed black cat. However, she is not your average 4-year-old cat. Merida is unable to walk more than a step alone, eat without leaning against things, or drink liquids due to dizziness and nerve damage from injuries sustained as a baby. Named after the main character of Disney’s movie ‘Brave’, Merida steals hearts and inspires. If you read on about her, you will see why.

Merida was born in the feral colony on my street. A colony that was well taken care of by two neighbour ladies, they noticed she was always crying and could not move her left front paw since birth. I was your local ‘know it all, crazy, cat lady down the street’ and so my neighbour came to show me photos and asked what to do. I had been seriously injured in a bad car accident months before, and I was simply not in a position to care for a cat, and all the rescues were full up, local shelter could not help, and so we all decided to let nature take its course.

Merida at 9 weeksA couple weeks later, during a week-long heat wave with heavy hailing thunderstorms overnight, my doorbell was frantically ringing. Here was the same neighbour begging me for help now with this kitten she kept a close watch on. This poor woman was panicked and could not really even tell me all that was happening but she knew this kitten was in danger.

Off we rushed down the street to the backyard of the abandoned house, and into the 4-foot-high grass, looking for this one kitten! I found her after a couple of minutes. She and her sister were playing, and her sister dashed off quickly as I spotted them and came close. The little black kitten tried hard to get up but all she could do was slightly raise a paw and hiss at me. Upon hissing, I saw her entire mouth had NO colour! Her gums were pale white, her tongue was pale, she was panting, you could see her extra eyelids, and her eyes kept rolling into the back of her head as her body kept trying to move, but would only collapse back to the ground. THIS… was definitely an emergency!

I had to ask my neighbour questions first. I had to find out what had been going on, if these kittens were sick or whatnot. I had pets of my own, and two seniors to think about! She explained to me that while the kittens were learning to walk, this one was limping, so she would fall quite often.

Merida at 12 weeksBut then, one day her ginger tabby sister and her were on the deck 6 ft up above the driveway wrestling. My neighbour was giggling at them until they both toppled off the deck and onto the driveway! Merida landed on the back of her head and was unable to move for some time. (Yes I was shocked to hear that nobody did anything, or even came and got me at THIS point) After around 2 minutes I guess she had tried get back up and had been completely unable to get vertical since this incident days before my neighbour got me.

To make things worse, this poor kitten had been stuck in the hail and thunderstorms while her and her mother called to one another and no human stepped in or at the least, gave her any shelter because she was unable to walk or stand at all after her fall off the deck. By the time I got custody of Merida, she was dangerously dehydrated, malnourished, could not walk or stand, her chin had been scraped so badly from falling along the driveway and sidewalk blocks, she had sheared off every whisker from those falls and scraping. So now, aside from two dogs and two cats, I now had a 3 ½ week old dying and injured kitten to take care of.

The vets were closed, so I tried my best to hydrate and nourish her in hopes she would survive. By the next day, she was finally doing well on the bodily function portion of things. So I used my entire savings, not working at the time due to injuries from my car accident, to see vet after vet after vet. We saw 6 in total, even ones that knew me well. Everyone wrote her off, claimed her instability was from distemper or CH (cerebellar hypoplasia, an underdevelopment of the balance portion of the brain happening in the womb). No exams. Just a death sentence, and offers for free euthanasia services. This was when I realized, I was on my own to try and help this small girl recover and find her a home. I refused to name her when vets asked for a name for the files, I knew if you name it… you own it! Well, I finally named her Merida. She is a brave little girl, and still surprises me.

Without veterinary help, I did physical therapy, herbal medicines, among other things with Merida to help her learn how to walk, steady herself to eat, and litter train. She would do well, but then have a few days where she was too exhausted from healing up, and then gain a pound or two and would have to re-learn to walk supporting that new weight or body length all over again.

Merida in a onesie instead of wearing a cone after being spayedOnce again climbing that hill to success, she had worms and I had to find a vet to give her a dewormer at the very least. Someone who would not want to euthanise her. This is when we found Dr. Jennifer Marshall who joined us in our healing journey. Dr. Marshall saw the potential in Merida, showing no clinical signs of illness and hearing me tell Merida’s story of what was known to happen to her, she was willing to take Merida on as a patient. While Merida would make some progress, something would happen to her like stress, loud noises, or when she was spayed, and lose all her balance and walking progress. Rallying for donations for the expensive testing required to find out exactly why this was happening, we succeeded and Merida got X-rays, a CT scan, bloodwork, and saw an internal medicine specialist. Cleared of CH, brain deformities, and any illnesses, Merida was labelled ‘a medical enigma’ and we all did not know how to treat her.

Merida’s vet and I have done trial and error, along with research. It has been four wonderful years now, and while Merida is once again relearning to walk and stay steady while eating without help after a bad bout, she still gets regular chiropractic or acupuncture treatment, physical therapy at home, massage, homeopathy to deal with symptoms for pain, as well as the aid of a medical device called AssisiLoop.

While Merida does not have any official diagnosis, the best label in the veterinary community she can be given is, "severe cerebellar ataxia - etiology unknown". Also suspecting that Merida has intracranial hypertension (increased cerebrospinal fluid pressure within her skull) and possible sternomastoid syndrome (the front neck, ear muscles, and nerves disturbing proper messages to the brain about balance).

Merida sitting downWhile she deals with all of this, she leads a normal kitty life. Merida just has her own ways of getting around, eating, and getting in and out of the litter box. While not graceful, she can do it all herself. I do cheat and spoil her by carrying her to and from things. How can you not? She is adorable with her trained vocabulary; she can tell you what she needs or wants via gestures or certain meows. Her vet and I are very hopeful that with time, a long time, her nerves and muscles will heal and she will make at least close to a full recovery.

Through this whole process, I started ‘Saved Merida’ in social media to help bring awareness for ‘wobbly cats’ as they are known, and to use Merida’s strong spirit to inspire. Cats with CH or who have other neurological problems from trauma, birth defects, vaccines, illness or medications are perfectly normal cats except for being unsteady at certain levels. While some need some extra setups for daily living, some can just have a little bit of the stick leg look when walking.

Merida in her walkerThey are not any less intelligent, and, in fact, I find them to be more intelligent as they come up with their own methods to make daily life work for them to eat or drink in their own little ways. Not contagious and maybe even a little cuter than your average kitty cat, wobbly cats are wonderful! You can always follow Merida on any of her social media platforms to watch videos of her improvements and growing up, read her diary in her own words, and see silly photos of Merida being cute or silly. Be sure to read up on her website and learn more about her with FAQs and an interview with her vet.



Twitter: @savedmerida

Blog/Diary by Merida:

YouTube Channel:

Amber in Canada


A Cats Purr

"Cats make one of the most satisfying sounds in the world: they purr ...

A purring cat is a form of high praise, like a gold star on a test paper. It is reinforcement of something we would all like to believe about ourselves - that we are nice."

Roger A Caras

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