The Cat, the Tail, and the Wheelchair

Sunny, our family cat

The spring of 2005 was an exciting time. I was about to receive a motorized wheelchair! It was a warm day in Indiana. I peered outside the sliding doors of my family’s condo, filled with wonder and excitement. My mother expressed the same emotions. She felt that this chair would allow me to have more mobility. In trying to understand the movement of this new equipment, I made mistakes by running over objects. One rookie mistake involved my cat and my poor ability to maneuver my wheelchair.

Looking back, I compare my experience to that of a teenager receiving a car for their sixteenth birthday. Excitement and curiosity raced through my mind. I sat in the living room, waiting for my wheelchair to be brought into the house. A wheelchair specialist presented it, driving it as though he was walking his bike on the sidewalk. My eleven-year-old mind was puzzled and fascinated by the machine. For me, it was a foreign object that was being welcomed into our home.

Once the wheelchair was in the living room, I was immediately put in control. I was told about each function and started moving around the room. At first, I simply moved back and forth. Later on, I would race around the room. In learning how to move around, I began to feel like I entered a new era of freedom and independence. Driving the wheelchair allowed me to 
expand my horizons and increase my confidence.

Having a motorized wheelchair changed the way I viewed my surroundings and myself. I was now able to move around more easily and complete more tasks on my own. These actions did not surpass my expectations (primarily because I did not have any). Still, driving came with its achievements and mistakes. These included bumping into walls, learning how to direct the motion of my wheelchair, and failing to see what was under my wheels. The last item involved my cat, who had become a beloved member of the family.

Sunny had been a part of the family since 2000. He possessed orange and white fur with swirl markings. Additionally, his meow, gentle and similar to that of a kitten, could be heard quite often. He had become particularly close to my mother, cuddling with her whenever it was possible. Thinking back to these traits, I regret that he became a victim of my rookie mistake.

At the time of my mistake, I’ve had had my wheelchair for a few weeks. Driving in the living room, I backed up and heard a loud “Meow!” Looking down, I saw my cat lying on the floor and squirming. I ran over his tail! He moved back and forth, attempting to bite the wheel. For a minute, I stared at him, completely dumbfounded. It had not yet occurred to me that I 
harmed my pet. My mother then yelled, “Move forward! Get off the cat’s tail!” I jolted my wheelchair forward, freeing him. Thankfully, he was not hurt in the process.

Today, Sunny is eighteen years old with his tail completely intact. Furthermore, he is aware of my vehicle, and will move if I am driving towards him. My family and I laugh about the incident, with my dad joking that “His life was flashing before his kitty eyes.” Still, I, admittedly, continue to bump into things around our house. While I have improved in gaining control my wheelchair, I know that I will not be driving a car anytime soon.