Unlikely friendships: How bunny rabbits helped heal a paralyzed cat

Canelo underwent acupuncture, laser treatments and bunny-play therapy. He is now looking for his forever home alongside his best friend Llama.

 Rescued Kitten (photo credit: Best Friends Animal Sanctuary)
Rescued Kitten
(photo credit: Best Friends Animal Sanctuary)

Cream kitten Canelo was only 6 weeks old when he arrived at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in the US with a variety of health conditions that could only be treated by specialist therapies.

Despite the odds being stacked against him, with his paralyzed back legs and incontinence issues, the small cat found an unusual form of treatment - bunny rabbits.

Although Canelo couldn't move his back legs, and they couldn't support his weight, he didn't appear to be in any pain, and vets described him as having a sweet and playful demeanor, and as a cat who was always happy to receive attention.

Spurred on by Canelo’s remarkable personality, the veterinary staff continued to search for the cause of the paralysis in hopes of finding a solution. Having ruled out injury or birth defect, the staff felt that Canelo may have a neurological condition.

Canelo’s new treatment plan

With this new line of reasoning, the vets developed a new treatment plan, but it involved one crucial element: bunnies.

For the first stage of his recovery plan, Canelo received weekly acupuncture treatments. The vets hoped that the therapy would stimulate his nervous system and resume his legs' connections to his brain. This would bring sensation and mobility to his hind legs. Shelter staff reported that Canelo was a model patient, sitting contently and happy to receive head scratches.

 Bunnies that helped Canelo's treatment (credit: Best Friends Animal Sanctuary) Bunnies that helped Canelo's treatment (credit: Best Friends Animal Sanctuary)

To treat Canelo’s incontinence, he underwent daily laser therapy. The laser helped reduce inflammation and aided his body’s healing process. He had to travel to the shelter's Bunny House to receive this treatment. It was here that Canelo encountered his new floppy-eared friends.

Canelo enjoyed jumping around with the bunnies, playing with their toys and snuggling with them, the shelter said. Canelo’s new friendship provided him with much-needed exercise and the attention of visitors who were charmed by the kitten.

With the bunny treatment, acupuncture, and laser therapy, it wasn’t long before Canelo was able to climb onto a scratching post.

Now Canelo has grown, his time with the bunnies is over. Luckily, he has befriended another kitten named Llama. Canelo and Llama spend their days wrestling, snuggling and waiting for the perfect forever home.

Who are Best Friends Animal Sanctuary?

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is the largest no-kill sanctuary in the United States. The sanctuary was established in 1984 by a group of friends who settled in the Utah desert.

Visitors are able to take a self-guided tour around the facility where they will be greeted by an adorable range of residents. The sanctuary is home to dogs, cats, bunnies, horses, pigs, birds and even rats. Those who wish to get closer to the animals are able to complete volunteer shift(s.)

Visitors are able to bring their pets to visit the sanctuary, and its hiking trails, but are asked to keep their pets leashed at all times. The sanctuary even has a store where visitors can purchase their pets a souvenir.

The sanctuary aims to make every rescue center a no-kill center by 2025.