When Roxanne, an experienced cat fosterer for Pet Haven in Minnesota, saw a photo of Zac, a young kitten who desperately needed some special care and attention, she instantly knew she had to help the eight-week-old feline.
“He was a mess and covered in urine scald and fecal matter that dripped down the back of his legs continuously,” remembers Roxanne.
She learned Zac was currently at a veterinary clinic in Indiana where he had received treatment for suspected intestinal parasites, which had done little to relieve his diarrhea and fecal incontinence. “I just thought he was a bit of a hot mess kitty who needed some meds and a consistent, good diet,” explains Roxanne, and in July 2019, Zac arrived at her home in Saint Paul along with a kitten with an infected wound and another kitten who had recently had an eye removed. “My whole expectation was taking on ‘a group of misfits’ — I just didn’t realize how serious his needs would be.”
Unfortunately, Zac’s symptoms didn’t improve with the help of medication and a quality diet, so Roxanne consulted several veterinary professionals in hopes of getting some insight into the cause of his chronic diarrhea and fecal incontinence. “I received a lot of sympathy from the multiple vets we visited hoping someone would have a recommendation of something else to try; but most just seemed kind of grossed out by him,” remembers Roxanne.
Roxanne didn’t give up though, and she took Zac to a specialty clinic where he had x-rays taken of his spine. While Roxanne was relieved to learn the x-rays didn’t show any signs Zac had suffered a spinal fracture, she was also frustrated because she still didn’t have a definitive diagnosis that explained his symptoms. “Zac’s incontinence was never fully determined to have a direct cause,” explains Roxanne, but because he has very little feeling around his spine and tail, she was told he had probably suffered something similar to a tail pull injury. “The specialty clinic simply stated ‘most people would euthanize’ and wished me ‘good luck.’ “
Fortunately for Zac, his foster mom didn’t decide to euthanize him, nor did she stop searching for answers. “It required a lot of patience, a lot of advocacy on his part, so much cleaning and scrubbing, and oh man did he hate baths,” says Roxanne.
However, one day as she and Zac were leaving a different clinic following a checkup, a veterinarian — and recent graduate — recommended a prescription food she thought might help alleviate some of his symptoms. “She wasn’t even the one who examined him, and boom, our lives changed within a few days like magic!” remembers Roxanne. Despite having tried a variety of foods, the one recommended by the vet actually helped Roxanne manage Zac’s fecal incontinence, allowing him to live a relatively normal life.
After spending well over a year with Roxanne, Zac was adopted in February 2021, but less than a year later, he was returned by his adopter in November 2021, in part because they were struggling with health issues of their own. Thankfully, Roxanne welcomed Zac back with open arms, and she is once again trying to find an adopter who will give him a home where he can thrive. “[They have to have] the willingness and ability to prioritize his mental and physical health first, and absolutely adore all of his adorable quirks and sweet attributes,” says Roxanne.
Even though Zac’s fecal incontinence has improved dramatically since the day Roxanne brought him home in July 2019 — to the point where he is able to use a litter box the vast majority of the time — he still has the occasional accident. Because Zac is unable to wear diapers, Roxanne has created a room for him that is easy to clean just in case he makes a bit of a mess. “Everything in his room can be scrubbed or thrown away,” explains Roxanne, “and all of the cleaning and blanket changing is done on rotation and scheduled; which is honestly easy!”
Plus, Zac isn’t confined to just one room, and when Roxanne is able to keep a close eye on him, he is allowed free rein of the house to explore and play with the other cats who share his home. In fact, this special boy absolutely adores his fellow felines, especially Roxanne’s cat Moe, and he adores spending supervised time outside. “He thinks he’s super fast and goes zooming across the yard,” says Roxanna.
Zac also loves to play, especially with the laser pointer and crinkle toys, but there’s nothing this sweet boy enjoys more than being with people! Not only does he like snuggling with Roxanne while she watches a movie, Zac will actually seek her out to give her hugs. “Big stretchy hugs from the ground, and he will come and hug you if you’re sitting on the couch as well — purely by choice,” says Roxanne. “He drools like crazy when he’s happy, he has a meow that sounds like a goose honk sometimes, and he lives to purr noisily and happily.”
While it might take a while, Roxanne is determined to find this one-of-a-kind kitty a home with people who will love and cherish Zac just the way he is. She also wants to make sure the person who adopts Zac understands that while his symptoms can be managed, they’re very unlikely to ever go away, which is why both his cleanliness and happiness are extremely important. “It’s simply a matter of being willing to make some adjustments and accommodations,” explains Roxanne, “but it doesn’t have to consume your life or even be your entire home!”
When Zac finds his forever home, there’s no doubt Roxanne will miss him dearly. After all, while she’s fostered lots of cats over the years, none of them have expressed their love and affection in quite the same way Zac does. “Every morning he greets me with his goose honk-sounding meow,” says Roxanne. “Then he reaches up with his adorable little paws high up into the air waiting for his morning big stretchy hug, purring noisily in genuine happiness to see me. He stares at me with pure love, drooling with joy, and I know that spending time with me is his favorite thing in the world.”
While her days won’t be the same without Zac, Roxanne takes comfort in knowing there’s something out there who is just waiting to have their life changed by this incredibly unique and loving boy. “Zac is truly the shining light each and every day,” says Roxanne. “Everyone deserves to be loved unconditionally the way Zac loves!”
To learn more about this handsome cat, you can follow Zac on Instagram.
If you’re interested in adopting Zac, you can submit an application.