by NATHANIEL NELSON
On Sunday evening at the American Legion, families and avid board-game lovers will be able to come together on a cold winter day, cuddle up inside, and play games for a good cause –– raising money for a kitten’s surgery.
Proceeds from a free-will donation at the door and raffle tickets will go to help the Winona Area Humane Society (WAHS) earn money to give foster cat Starla a life-changing surgery at the University of Minnesota, helping stymie a genetic disorder she has had all her life.
Starla and her brother Blade were diagnosed with medial patellar luxation with quadriceps contracture, a genetic disorder which causes the kittens’ knees to slip out from under their joints, causing the thigh muscles to become permanently shortened.
The two cats started out as typical kittens when they came to WAHS in March 2017. The two kittens were found in a bush, along with a sibling who was taken in by the person who found them, and given to WAHS when they were only a few weeks old. The two jumped, bounced, and ran around the kitten bay, just like any other kittens.
But after a while, Starla began limping. Blade followed suit.
When the disorder was first noticed, veterinarians at Pet Medical Center said they would have to wait and see how the disorder progressed.
“Blade still limps, but Starla drags her legs behind her and can’t really use them much,” said Vanessa Normandin, the kittens’ foster mother. “It has been gradually getting worse.”
Normandin was volunteering at the Humane Society when she met Starla and her brother. They had just been given back to the society from their previous foster home, and were housed in a separate medical room away from the rest of the cats, and she and her husband Brad knew they had to do something.
“We saw the video that the Humane Society posted and it really got us in the heart,” Normandin said. “I was trying not to be that person, comin home and saying ‘We have to bring back this animal,” but my husband was actually the one who said we should take them home.”
So in November 2017, the two kittens found their new foster home with the Normandins.
Over time, their condition worsened, with Starla getting her own sweater just to keep her from dragging the hair off her legs. Eventually, Normandin looked into what could be done.
According to Normandin, Starla and Blade’s disorder is more commonly found in dogs, and many orthopedic surgeons said the surgery was not something they could do.
Luckily, Starla has a chance at getting her legs back through surgery at the University of Minnesota.
“I’d love to see her running again, and be able to use the litter box without dragging herself through it,” Normandin said.
The surgery will cost $5,000, and to raise funds, a game night will be hosted on Sunday, with both kittens in joining the party. Those who attend will be able to buy raffle tickets for prizes including board games from Jimmy Jams, cookies from Something Sweet, gift cards or a free photo session with Kamrowski Photography; as well as donate to the fund, and meet the little furballs in person.
“We thought it’d be something good for families to do in the dead of winter,” Normandin said.
Every dollar received at the fundraiser will go directly to Starla and Blade, Normandin said, with the goal of putting Starla through the surgery. Blade’s disorder hasn’t progressed far enough to warrant the same, but physical therapy and arthritis medication are options. She added that the fundraiser is indicative of WAHS’ devotion to animals, no matter what issue they may have. Just recently, the organization raised funds for a group of puppies with canine parvovirus, a life-threatening disease infecting their digestive systems.
“It really speaks to the Humane Society as a no-kill shelter. They cater to special needs, and are dedicated to improving the lives of animals in the community,” Normandin said. “At hundreds of other shelters in the U.S., they would have likely been euthanized.”
Starla and Blade’s Family Game Night will be held at the American Legion, 302 East Sarnia Street in Winona, on Sunday, December 30, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. There will be a recommended $5 free-will donation at the door, and $5 raffle tickets will be available for purchase. For more information, contact Vanessa Normandin at 507-429-9662.