As a veteran herself, Karolyn Smith says she knows what veterans need: a purring kitten.
Smith herself has adopted two kittens from a San Diego shelter—one named Sophia, whose back leg was removed when she was found with her umbilical cord wrapped around her paw.
When Smith learned of the cat's disability, "I was thinking, no problem because I have friends who are amputees, and I started thinking, 'Oh my God, I could solve this problem, too,' " she told WIAT 42 News.
Smith was an army sergeant wounded by a roadside bomb in Iraq and knows firsthand how difficult it is to live with post-traumatic stress disorder. She believes Sophia can help veterans, some of whom may connect with the cat because she's a fellow amputee.
These days, Smith finds herself relying on her kitties instead of medication to manage her combat-induced PTSD. "They're so funny and uplifting," she says. "When my fingers touch their fur, my mood improves. The cats have motivated me to go out into the world and be more productive."
Recently, Sophia was fitted for a prosthetic leg by San Diego-based Fab Lab.
"This is a complicated project, and we look forward to sharing it with the world so that Sophia and other animals with similar needs might benefit from it," says director Katie Rask. For this unpaid project, she said members joined forces to design and create the cat's prosthetic foot using a wide variety of approaches, materials, and techniques including 3-D technology.
After she learns how to get around with it, the goal is to make the kitty a therapy cat for veterans, since therapy dogs aren't always a perfect fit for everyone.
For now, Sophia and her sis-fur (all grown up now) continue to live together with their mom in kitty bliss, secure in the knowledge that they're deeply loved—by their mom and by the wounded soldiers whose lives they touch.
Check out Sophia's amazing story in the video below!