7 min read

Kitten With Smushed Face Has The Cutest Personality To Match

“She needed to go to a home that loved her smushy face and understood her feistiness.”

"Feisty" is not a word Lindsey Hidenrite, cat coordinator for Helping Hands Pet Rescue in Gainesville, Florida, would have associated with Smush when she rescued the kitten last summer. Hidenrite, a veterinary student at University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, often gets called upon to take strays suffering from severe health issues. That was the case with Smush, who came to Hidenrite when she was about 10 days old after being found outside and close to death.

rescue cat smush
Smush was very ill when she was found. | Lindsey Hidenrite

Smush had a cleft lip and facial deformities, and was suffering from an upper respiratory infection and a severe case of ringworm. She was unable to eat, so Hidenrite syringe-fed her every four hours while treating her with antibiotics and frequent medicated baths.

Smush’s cleft lip and wide-set eyes are considered congenital deformities, Hidenrite told the Dodo. “I've seen a few instances where kittens with deformities are found abandoned as if their mother knew she would be unable to take care of them,” she said. Sometimes mother cats will reject unhealthy kittens, sensing they may not survive, so that they can tend to the needs of the other kittens in a litter.

Smush thrived under Hidenrite’s care and was soon able to eat on her own. She moved in with her foster mom, Laura Braden, who continued giving her medicated baths three times a week.

smush rescue cat kitten
Smush began eating on her own. | Lindsey Hindenrite

As she grew stronger, she got braver and started earning her feisty reputation. “She was a handful from day one!” Braden said. Braden’s attempts to confine Smush while she recovered from ringworm proved futile: “She climbed over every barrier I put up, so I caved in and gave her an entire room.”

When animals are orphaned at a very young age, they miss out on learning crucial social skills from their parents and siblings. It’s during these first months that they learn how to interact with others. A kitten being raised by his mother will be corrected if he bites too hard during play. He doesn’t intend to hurt his playmate, he just doesn’t understand the difference between play and prey.

smush kitten rescue cat
Shannon Jackson

An experienced kitten foster mom, Braden was the recipient of Smush’s love bites. Braden knew Smush would benefit from an adoptive family who understood her. 

“She needed to go to a home that loved her smushy face and understood her feistiness,” Braden said.

smush rescue kitten cat
Laura Braden and Lindsey Hidenrite helped Smush live. They reunited with Smush in her forever home. | Shannon Jackson

Shannon Jackson and her wife, Sarah Jenne, spotted Smush on Hidenrite’s personal Facebook page but they never discussed adopting her. Jenne was still grieving over the recent loss of her beloved cat, Poot. Jackson says Jenne always responded with the words “a kitten” when asked what she wanted for Christmas, Valentine’s Day or any special occasion.

smush rescue cat kitten
Shannon Jackson

Jackson became friendly with Hidenrite when she began photographing animals available for adoption through Helping Hands Pet Rescue. Jackson admired Hidenrite’s affinity for helping the helpless, including Raisin, a special cat recently featured by The Dodo.

smush kitten cat rescue
Adoption day with moms Shannon and Sarah | Shannon Jackson

“Sarah’s birthday was coming up, so I messaged Lindsey to see if Smush was still available,” Jackson said. Hidenrite wrote back that she was available — but that she was extremely feisty — and suggested the couple bring Smush home for the week to see how it would go.

smush rescue cat kitten
Smush loves her siblings, including a rescue greyhound named Candy. | Shannon Jackson

“It was love at first sight,” Jackson said, adding, “Smush growled at Sarah and I for probably 24 hours until she would even come out of her little carrier.” But when she did, Jackson said, her personality exploded. Smush found her forever home with her moms and now has three cat siblings, three dog siblings and a hedgehog named Homer. Smush is the first feline the couple has adopted together and Jackson says she is perfect for them. 

smush rescue cat kitten
Smush has spent the past few weeks batting Christmas balls from the tree, bunching up the tree skirt and dreaming of shredding wrapping paper. | Shannon Jackson
smush cat rescue kitten
Shannon Jackson

Smush’s moms say she purrs more and bites less these days. She got a surprise visit from her rescuers, Braden and Hidenrite, shortly before Christmas. Everyone credits Smush’s fighting spirit as the reason she survived her ordeal.

You can follow Smush’s adventures on Instagram and donate to Helping Hands Pet Rescue here.

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