Peanut the kitten wasn’t supposed to live longer than one month. He had congenital hypothyroidism, a rare condition. Without treatment, odds are low that kittens survive. He’s now approaching his 4-month birthday, and Heather Fagan, Alley Cat Allies’ Program Manager for New Jersey Operations, is celebrating.
Fagan found Peanut, his siblings, and his mother, during one of Alley Cat Allies’ Boardwalk Cats Project™ cleanups in Atlantic City in late May.
“Peanut is so sweet and sincerely loving. I can put my face up to him and he’ll nudge into it and snuggle,” says Fagan. “He’s so not a typical kitten in any way, but he has the most amazing personality. Everything about him is so unique and so positive.”
Fagan and a team of volunteers kicked off the boardwalk cleanup on a different spot of the boardwalk than usual. As Fagan ducked under the boardwalk to tug out the very first community cat shelter to clean, she was greeted with an unexpected chorus of tiny cries. Tucked inside the shelter was a litter of four 2-week old kittens. Fagan moved quickly to get the kittens the care they needed, trapped their mother to have her spayed, and brought them to her home to foster them.
Among his siblings, Peanut was the tiniest—just half the size of the rest. Fagan quickly noticed he was falling behind in his development. Peanut had stopped latching onto his mother, couldn’t walk without falling, was blind in one eye, and completely deaf. When Fagan rushed Peanut to the veterinarian, she was told the kitten was “failing to thrive” and would likely not survive.
“I said, ‘Don’t you dare tell me he won’t make it.’ I knew then and there that I’d do everything I could to help this little kitten live,” says Fagan. “I was on a mission, caring for Peanut and feeding him by hand round-the-clock every single day. I was going to do what it took no matter what.”
During an exam at the Atlantic Animal Health Center, a veterinary technician observed Peanut and recalled an article she read about congenital hypothyroidism in cats. Many of Peanut’s symptoms matched the description, so she recommended that Peanut get tested. Ten days later, the diagnosis came back positive.
Peanut, now on lifelong medication to treat his condition, was given a positive prognosis. In fact, within hours of receiving his first dose of medication, Fagan says Peanut’s energy levels were up and he was instigating scuffles with his mom and siblings.
Today, Peanut is still half the size of his siblings at just over two pounds. As part of his condition, he remains deaf and blind in one eye, and will have a flat face, large head, a tongue that constantly pokes out, and dwarfism. None of that has stopped him from living his life to the feisty feline fullest. Playful Peanut still loves to bat at toys, paw at his siblings, roll on his back, and even run around with Fagan’s dog.
Fagan knows Peanut will always be developmentally behind and need daily attention for the rest of his life. But she is grateful to be able to provide the care he needs. From the moment she spotted the kitten, she says, her heart melted. Now, she has adopted him into her home forever.
“Everything happened for a reason,” says Fagan. “Going to a different boardwalk location instead of the normal location, pulling out that one shelter first. Nothing was done the normal way, and we found a kitten so beyond normal because of it!”
Alley Cat Allies will continue to support the care and treatment Peanut needs to live a long, healthy, happy life. We hope his unlikely story inspires you to help cats in your community!