A couple took a chance on a tiny kitten who couldn't eat and wasn't growing, but the little calico kept fighting to live.
They named her Xena after the warrior princess.
A family rescued a pregnant stray cat and brought her home. After the kittens were born, they noticed the calico's cleft lip and that she couldn't nurse from the mama. They reached out to New Life Animal Rescue (in Marlton, New Jersey) for help.
At 11 days old, the little kitten weighed just 110 grams, much smaller for her age. Her cleft lip made it difficult for her to latch on a bottle.
"The family tried to bottle feed this little one but reported that the formula kept coming out of her nose and she wasn't growing like the others in the litter," Brea, a foster carer based in New Jersey, told Love Meow.
The calico baby was dehydrated and had aspiration pneumonia and a fever coat. After a trip to the vet, they started her on the tiniest dose of medication and supplemented with sub-q fluids to keep her hydrated.
Brea began tube-feeding the kitten around the clock. In less than three days, Xena's weight went up by 1/3.
Xena would snuggle into Brea's elbow or try to nurse on her Snuggle Kitty Toy for comfort. 24 days after the rescue, she doubled her weight and her tiny teeth started to grow.
As she got bigger, she became more playful and would climb on her humans' shoulders to be carried around the house.
"She was learning how to pounce and run but still loved snuggles with us," Brea added. "She was active and strong and certainly living up to her warrior name."
When Xena tried her first solid food, she finished it like a champ. Despite her deformity, she had a great appetite and was determined to grow big and strong.
"She was very playful and loved rolling around biting my shirt," Brea said.
"After days of sub-q fluids, two weeks of antibiotics, feeding tubes, and countless hugs and kisses, she weighed about 630 grams (around 1.4 pounds) at six weeks old."
The little girl is a fighter. Even when she was having a fever, she never stopped eating and playing.
"She has survived aspiration pneumonia and an unknown virus that landed her in the hospital. Although she was a bit delayed, she is now eating on her own, using the litter box, and as healthy as any kitten her age."
"She is one tiny ball of endless energy. This baby has come so far and overcome so much and I couldn't be prouder of her," Brea added.
Xena is a little miracle kitty!
"She purrs nonstop and will have her cleft forever and will always look a little different but she has proven that she is a fighter and will live a very happy and normal life.
"Because of Xena's cleft, her tongue looks like it sticks out of her mouth slightly crookedly. She is just too cute!"
At 12 weeks old, the calico girl was ready for her forever home.
A wonderful couple, Aubrey and Dan, fell in love with the little bundle of joy.
Aubrey had been following the kitten's story, and when Xena was up for adoption, she immediately sent in her application.
Home sweet home!
"She thinks she's a parrot but she's really the cutest calico cleft lip rescue kitty," Aubrey said.
The kitty, now renamed Cleo, is their little supurrvisor!
She loves her Cat TV and wants to know everything that her humans are doing.
Cleo is five months old.
The cleft kitty has beat the odds and grown to be a gorgeous, healthy and very cuddly cat.
Watch the kitty's rescue journey in this video:
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