KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A Kansas City medical student is crediting his disabled cat, who's an online sensation, for teaching him valuable lessons he'll use throughout his career.
Sam Tochtrop is a busy student at Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences. His cat, Scooter, has special needs.
But he said they're both better because of each other.
“I’ve joked that my next cat, because I’ve had Scooter, has to be a paralyzed cat too because it wouldn’t make sense not to have one,” Tochtrop said.
Tochtrop was never a “cat person” but Scooter, who has a spinal deformity and can’t use her back legs, changed that.
“She has no idea that there is anything different about her,” Tochtrop said. “It’s not something that can be reversed.”
He adopted Scooter when she was a kitten.
“I couldn’t stand the thought of her possibly being put down for something that’s not her fault,” he said.
One of his friends suggested that he post videos of Scooter online, something he opposed to at the beginning.
“[My friend’s] like, ‘Sam you’ve got to put this cat online. People are just going to love this cat,’” he recalled.
His friend was right.
Scooter and Sam have more than 54,000 followers on their Instagram page. They’ve been featured on the Hallmark Channel, and their story on animal social pages, like The Dodo, has generated millions of views.
“It’s so bizarre to be recognized outside my private group of friends,” Tochtrop said.
Known as “Scoot’s dad,” Sam goes out of his way to make sure Scooter is living her best life. He “Scoot proofs” every place they stay at, blocking off certain areas and building special ramps for her.
“I’m thinking how can she hurt herself in this room and then I try to fix,” he said. “[But] it’s like, 'How can she thrive and actually enjoy her life?”
Scooter has had just as big of an impact on Sam as he’s had on hers.
“The biggest impact she’s had on me is helping me develop my empathetic side,” he said.
Tochtrop said Scooter has made him more patient, accepting and understanding -- all key qualities for someone who plans to be a primary care doctor.
“The whole point is to have continuity with people throughout their whole lives and consider them important enough to you to care about them long-term,” he said.
As Tochtrop moves on to the next chapter in his life, there’s one gal he always wants to be by his side.
“I can’t imagine some aspect of her not being in my life forever,” he said.
Tochtrop will graduate this week from Kansas City University with a doctorate in Osteopathic Medicine. He’s then off to St. Louis to start his residency.