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Tiny But Tough

Kitten rescued with more than 70 other cats in Canada is now thriving after some much-needed TLC

All Animals magazine, May/June 2016

by Ruthanne Johnson

Caregivers weren’t sure tiny Pippin was going to survive. But after a few weeks of care, he was thriving.

Most days begin with yawns, purrs and sleepy-eyed playtime. Then Pippin sits in a window beside his adoptive sister, an older cat named Gabi, watching as Annelise Unrau and her boyfriend, Liam McConnell, get ready for the day. Sometimes, he’ll balance atop one of their shoulders and gaze down as they cook.

Later, he’ll run after his bouncy ball, batting it like some four-legged Pelé. And then maybe climb to his favorite perch, where he likes to sit and watch the world go by. His favorite thing, though, is a big, brown faux-fur blanket. “He holds it in his mouth and kneads it, purring,” says Unrau.

But Pippin’s life wasn’t always footloose and fancy free.

The couple adopted Pippin from Toronto Cat Rescue when he was only about 3 months old. He was one of dozens of emaciated felines discovered in September by the Quebec government on the property of a woman who’d previously been charged with animal neglect. Officials had continued to inspect her property and called HSI Canada when they found a filthy old farmhouse crawling with sick, hungry cats.

None of the cats were sterilized, and there were numerous pregnant and nursing mothers so malnourished they couldn’t even produce milk to feed their kittens, says Ewa Demianowicz with HSI Canada.

At an emergency shelter, the cats were given water and vaccinations. The kittens were given supplemental milk. All were fed, dewormed, treated for fleas and bathed. Initially, the number of cats swelled to 91 as cats gave birth. Then it dropped to 73. “A lot of the kittens were just too weak and died,” Demianowicz says. No one thought Pippin (then named Smalls) would survive.

As the cats’ health improved, some were relocated, others adopted. But the at-risk kittens still needed special care. Sayara Thurston of HSI Canada fostered several, including Pippin, who was so small he fit in the palm of her hand.

“He had a crazy will to live,” Thurston says of Pippin, who slowly gained weight. Then came the constant purring. “You would just look at him and he’d purr,” she says. Soon he was strong enough for transfer to Toronto Cat Rescue, where he was adopted by Unrau and McConnell.

Pippin still purrs loudly. His young exuberance has given the usually mellow Gabi a reason to play.

“Our favorite thing about him has to be his resiliency,” Unrau says. “In spite of what he went through, ... Pippin is such a loving, trusting and happy cat.”

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