'Not my cat any more' - Owner's heartache over pet's nerve condition
- Credit: Nicole Mitchell
Nicole Mitchell was overjoyed when she brought spritely eight-week-old kitten Nero home for the first time.
The tiny black moggy cried for the whole taxi ride home, but as soon as he was indoors he took to his new surroundings in no time, claiming the place as his own while gleefully climbing over the furniture.
In the coming weeks, he grew closer and closer to Miss Mitchell and her partner Chris Liyanage, doing all the usual things kittens love to do - and even learning to play fetch with hair bobbles.
However, one morning in January everything changed, when Nero, who is now six months old, started to struggle walking.
His condition then deteriorated and he stopped eating properly and lost the kitten-like energy the couple had grown to love.
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Miss Mitchell, a 24-year-old psychology student, said: "All of a sudden he was just not my cat any more. It was heartbreaking.
"The first day we just thought perhaps he had slept funny - people do it, so perhaps cat do it too. But he just never got better."
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Miss Mitchell took Nero to his vets and after an initial examination was told he would need to be taken to a specialist, potentially to have an MRI scan.
And while Nero is insured, the couple were faced with vets bills that will likely exceed £2,000 - depending what treatment the cat requires.
Faced with the prospect of having to give up the kitten she had grown to adore, Miss Mitchell. who lives in Lakenfields in Norwich, launched a Go Fund Me page in hopes of raising the funds to get him the treatment he so desperately needs.
She said: "My heart sank when I was told how much it would cost to treat him, but he is my world. We genuinely considered giving him up, as if we weren't able to afford his treatment I would never keep him in pain just for my own selfish reasons.
"But I spoke to my friend Harry Dickson about it and he suggested starting a Go Fund Me - something I would never have thought of, to be honest.
"We thought even if we only raised £100 it would make a huge amount of different - perhaps covering our travel costs."
With neither Miss Mitchell nor Mr Liyanage able to drive, it took two trains and a taxi to take Nero to Dick Whites Referrals.
But less than 24 hours after setting up the page, three times this amount was raised, helping to cover the cost of the pair's travel and Nero's initial consultation and pain medication.
"I was absolutely overwhelmed by the response we have got," Miss Mitchell said. "This isn't a big charity or anything that will save people's lives - it is just a girl and her cat. It just meant so much. It absolutely blew my mind."
After his visit to the specialists, the couple were told Nero was suffering from suspected nerve conditions called polyneuropathy and neuromuscular junction disease.
It means he has limited use of his hind legs and, should his condition worsen, he will need to return for electro treatment.
It has left Miss Mitchell having to give him around-the-clock care - from hand-feeding him to helping him make trips to the toilet
She added: "He has ups and downs. Some days he will just sit there and do nothing but other days he will try and fight it, but then exhaust himself out.
"We want him to have a good life, we don't want him to be the disabled cat who just sleeps all day.
"He's our baby and if he doesn't get better and we have to carry on giving him the level of care we do, we will just have to do that.
"Thankfully, the specialist said it's unlikely to get to a point where he needs to be put to sleep, but it is going to be a very bumpy road for him."
To help fund Nero's treatment, visit his Go Fund Me page.