3 Swimmer Syndrome Stray Kittens Find Life-Changing Help From Dedicated Foster Family

For those working in TNVR or caring for feral colonies, they see ALL types of felines. Some are truly feral and happiest living their life–albeit a dangerous one–on the streets. Others are abandoned and find themselves alone and hungry with no one to care for them any longer. But then there are those born on the streets. The first days and weeks of their lives are riddled with obstacles, internally and externally inflicted. So what are the stray kittens that are born with genetic defects or abnormalities supposed to do?! Well for 3 tiny kittens with swimmer syndrome born near the port in Ybor City, Florida, their lives began with quite a feat to overcome. And they would not have survived if not for their dedicated foster family!

Photo courtesy of @yborcats

The swimmer syndrome kittens were born to a 3-time mama living within a feral/stray colony. 

Near the port in downtown Tampa, there are a ridiculous amount of stray and feral felines. But one man who works at a local boat and marine shop has a heart large enough for them all. He has been taking care of the colony here every day–and on his own dime. He has worked with St. Francis Society Animal Rescue and to date has TNVR’d about 75 of them!!! 

But this time was different. Working with the rescue, they knew they needed to focus on one special cat. Her name was Dora and she was about 2 years old. She was also now on her 3rd pregnancy! They’d not been able to get her in the past and knew it was absolutely necessary. But by the time they had been successful in finding her, she was cuddled with her 5 new kittens. Sigh.

Photo courtesy of @yborcats

The kittens were about a week old when they were all rescued from the streets–with mama Dora in tow. Her new family would all be going to stay at the home of experienced foster mom Stephanie De Vivo Montuori. Everyone would also be treated to their progress by following her social media pages @yborcats.

It’s always amazing when a mama cat can stay with her neonates, and is usually the healthiest for everyone. Dora showed herself to be an amazing and attentive mama. Sadly, at her young age, she was very experienced.

Photo courtesy of @yborcats ~ mama Dora

But the family settled into home life and began their adventures. The kittens were all named after the show “Dexter” to keep them in a family theme.

Photo courtesy of @yborcats

It wasn’t until the kittens really began moving around that they noticed 3 of them weren’t walking well. 

For Astor, Cody and Harrison, their legs were laying out to the sides and they were not able to hold them up. It was then that Stephanie’s husband Chris researched and realized they were all three dealing with Swimmer Syndrome. Unfortunately there is not a ton of research online yet as vets and rescues are just realizing it’s something that CAN be corrected. Ideally, it is addressed as young as possible, but what exactly is it?

Photo courtesy of @yborcats

Stephanie told us personally that this article from Bombadillo Kittens proved invaluable to the family! 

Splayed leg syndrome is also referred to as Swimmer Syndrome or ‘frog legged kitten’! Its causes are not fully understood but it is thought to be a mechanical issue. The ligaments in the joints of the legs do not tighten up properly and the result is that the kitten is left with floppy leg joints.

Photo courtesy of @yborcats

All kittens, and human babies, are born with loose ligaments, and these ligaments tighten up in the days and weeks after birth. In a very small minority of kittens, the ligaments appear not to tighten up. The result is that the legs hang limp behind or to the side of the kitten. The legs have the appearance of a frog, or breast stroke swimmer, which is where the other names have come from.

Swimmer syndrome, or splayed leg syndrome is an issue that is not entirely understood in cats yet. It is much more common in puppies.

Photo courtesy of @yborcats

There are different degrees of swimmer syndrome: 

  1. Swimmer syndrome in all four legs, usually associated with Flat Chested Kitten Syndrome (FCKS)

  2. The syndrome in just the front legs, often associated with Flat Chested Kitten Syndrome

  3. Swimmer syndrome in just the back legs, usually not associated with Flat Chested Kitten Syndrome, particularly if treated early.

If you have a kitten with Swimmer Legs, or Swimmer Syndrome, please do not despair….it is very distressing to see a beautiful little kitten with Swimmer Syndrome, but there is a very good chance that you will be able to fix it.

Photo courtesy of @yborcats

So the first thing Stephanie and her equally dedicated husband Chris did, was create little leg “splints” for the 3 swimmer syndrome kittens.

This would allow the legs to only separate so far and force them to be in the correct positioning. It’s best to begin no sooner that 2 weeks as kittens are super wriggly!!! 

It is vital to get them in the correct position so that they grow properly and you do not cause secondary issues for the kitten. If you bandage the legs in the wrong position you will make it worse. 

Little Astor had it the worst, so her band was place closer to her feet. Thankfully it worked like a charm!!! Soon she was standing proud alongside her mom.

All three kittens started to grow stronger and stronger by the day. Their other two siblings, Dexter and Rita were thrilled to have more playmates. Even though mama Dora is so young, she regularly plays like a kitten.

After a few months of therapy and love, the swimmer kittens were ALL standing tall and proud!

It was then time for them to get spayed or neutered and then off to find forever homes. On the morning of their surgery. Stephanie had 9 cats / kittens to bring in to be fixed! Awesome job ending the cycle of street cats to her and team!

Photo courtesy of @yborcats

July 7th brought some amazing news for two of the swimmer syndrome kittens–in the form of adoptions! 

Yesterday was a big day for our yborcats family. The first of Dora’s babies to get adopted was Astor.

Photo courtesy of @yborcats

Our sweet ruby baby that was so tiny we were afraid she wasn’t eating enough. And she was also one of our swimmers, who we were afraid wouldn’t walk. She has overcome a lot to be the same size as most of her siblings and a kitten who is fearless and very loving. We are gonna miss her a ton but she has the sweetest family with another 5 year old cats and two gentle little humans. We’ve already received updates and they love her❤️Happy life sweet baby girl! Enjoy the new chapter of your life! 

The second of Dora’s babies to get adopted was Harrison!

Photo courtesy of @yborcats

Our sweet baby boy that was shy at first but became one of the sweetest love bugs And he was also one of our swimmers, who we were afraid wouldn’t walk. Harrison went from the kind of kitten to wait for attention to the kind that got the love he felt he deserved, when he wanted it. We are gonna miss him a ton but he has a great family with another cat friend and 4 human kids to play with! Happy life sweet darling boy! Enjoy the new chapter of your life! 

We can’t wait to hear of the updates on Dora, Cody, Dexter and Rita! If you are interested in adopting any of them, please visit them on the St. Francis website HERE.

Photo courtesy of @yborcats

REMEMBER: SPAY/NEUTER, FOSTER, VOLUNTEER, TNR & AS ALWAYS, ADOPT, DON’T SHOP!

Related Story: Unwanted Litter Includes Kittens Born With Rare Disease; Foster Mom Steps In and Takes Entire Family!Related Story: When This Kittens Breathing Declined, Rescuers Diagnosis Rare Condition and Help Him Conquer It!

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2 Comments

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  1. I believe all feral kittens and cats can be socialized given time with love, shelter, food, and attention to build trust and love to human. There are many examples on the Internet that show grumpy feral cats can become very much part of the family once the trigger to the trust occurs: even senior kitties. In some cases, the former feral cat does not want to leave a warm house, comfortable bed, plenty of food, the enjoyment of play, and company and love of their new family (owners) for the misery of the great outdoors. The urge of the outdoors can be satisfied by a catio or walks with your cat on a lease. Why do we sterotype pet cats as being the ones who jump in your laps. Cats in feral colonies often allow their caretakers to pet them once trust is gained.The problem of trying to socialize all homeless and ownerless felines is there are not enough foster families to handle the abundance of these kitties. Hence, socialization of cats is prioritized to the felines most likely for success and finding their forever homes given the current situation. If I could do my life over again, kittens and cats would be part of my life. I would be involved with the TNR programs, fostering kittens, and spend time at the SPCA. Part of my fostering would involve feral cats in a catio. So what if it takes years before these cats gain trust. Feral cats know what it is like to survive in the streets. All cats can sense whether you love them and trying to help them when in need.

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