Rescue Kitten Is Half The Size Of A Normal Cat
"The joy she radiates to everyone around her is contagious."
When rescuers heard about five newborn kittens, only 2 days old, who had ended up at a rural shelter in North Carolina, they knew they had to help. The poor kittens were being kept in a tiny, cold cage, and since kittens that young can't produce their own warmth, they needed out of there as quickly as possible.
Susan Spaulding, an active foster mom and cofounder of the National Kitten Coalition, volunteered to foster all five kittens. Spaulding has 25 years of experience working with kittens, and therefore wasn't fazed by the bottle-feeding and round-the-clock care the babies needed in order to survive.
The kittens were in incredibly poor condition when they arrived at their foster home, and unfortunately, one of them didn't make it and passed away the next day. As discouraging as it was, Spaulding knew she couldn't give up on the four remaining kittens.
"I honestly didn't know what the future held, but I was going to give Bijou and her brothers lots of love and hope for the best," Spaulding told The Dodo.
From the very beginning, Bijou, the only girl in the litter, was much smaller than her brothers. As time went on and her brothers started to grow, Bijou simply didn't.
"The remaining three kittens, all boys, progressed normally and moved on to rescue for adoption right on schedule," Rebecca Jewell, executive director of the National Kitten Coalition, told The Dodo. "Bijou progressed much more slowly, and at about 4 ounces, seemed to stop growing. She would gain a few grams, lose a few grams."
One night, Bijou's health severely declined and she almost didn't make it - but somehow she pulled through. The whole ordeal seemed to make Bijou stronger, and shortly after, she finally passed the 5-ounce mark.
"As long as Bijou was fighting and comfortable, I was going to fight right along with her," Spaulding said.
Slowly, Bijou finally began to grow, but will still always be much smaller than a normal cat. At 9 weeks, she weighed only 8.2 ounces, and at 4 months old, she had reached 1.6 pounds. That's half the size of a normal kitten that age.
It's unclear why exactly Bijou is so small. Spaulding has raised other "micro" kittens like Bijou, and the only theories veterinarians have are lack of specific enzymes or hormones and congenital heart issues. Regardless, Bijou is the happiest little kitten, and seems to have no idea that she's any different.
"The joy she radiates to everyone around her is contagious," Spaulding said.
Bijou is now 8 and a half months old and weighs 3.3 pounds. Despite her small size, Bijou is perfectly healthy, and is still in foster care with Spaulding in Charlotte, North Carolina. Spaulding is happy to care for little Bijou as long as she needs, and everyone loves watching her grow - even if the process is a little slower than most.
"For me, every life matters," Spaulding said. "Once a commitment is made, I don't give up just because the road is tough – as long as the quality of life is good for the baby."