When Mel Lamprey went to pick up Bitty, an injured Siamese kitten she’d agreed to foster for Wrenn Rescues, she was surprised with yet another special needs cat, Chester, an adorable ginger boy.
“We got Chester from the Ventura County Animal Services,” says Alyssa, president of Wrenn Rescues, a non-profit organization based in Thousand Oaks, California. “We don’t know for sure, but we were told that he had possibly been kicked in the jaw, causing the break.”
Chester, who was just six weeks old, was living on the streets when he received the injuries to his face, shattering his lower jaw and destroying all of his bottom teeth. Despite the severity of the trauma, which made it nearly impossible for Chester to eat, he had managed to survive, eventually ending up at the shelter in Ventura Country where he was rescued by Alyssa. “When she went and got him his jaw was stuck hanging open,” says Mel. “Most of his teeth roots were exposed and rotting. His mouth was full of a green/yellow rot that stunk horribly.”
A week after rescuing Chester, Alyssa got an email from West Valley Animal Shelter in Chatsworth, asking if Wrenn Rescues would be willing to help Bitty, a beautiful Siamese kitten with a degloved ear, tail, and toes. “Bitty was a tiny little girl — scared to death and in rough shape,” remembers Alyssa.
Unable to refuse, Alyssa rescued Bitty as well, and she and Chester bonded while they were both recovering from surgeries to repair their extensive injuries. After everything Chester and Bitty had already been through in their young lives, Mel couldn’t bear the thought of separating the bonded pair, so she agreed to foster both of them.
Chester, who was named by Pamela from Bruno and Boop, the woman responsible for helping to raise money for his costly surgery, was still in rough shape when Mel met him for the first time, but his happy-go-lucky personality managed to shine through.”The poor thing was a mess and couldn’t even close his jaw, and yet he purred when I held him!” remembers Mel.
On September 10, 2018, Mel brought the pair of kittens home, determined to do everything she could to help them recover from their injuries. While Chester must have endured excruciating pain before he was rescued, Chester amazed his foster mom with his sweet and resilient spirit. “I got him home, picked him up, and he started purring immediately,” remembers Mel. “Of course I cried and must have held him for hours, promising that I would protect him forever and that I would make sure that he got better and would never let him down.”
Mel was also surprised by the touching way Chester cared for Bitty, acting as a big brother to her and providing her with love and reassurance despite having more serious injuries than the tiny, frightened Siamese kitten. “He would bathe her and cuddle her and stick to her side,” remembers Mel. In fact, they were so bonded with one another, Bitty became inconsolable when she was separated from her best friend, even for just a short time, so Mel had to bring the little kitten to all of Chester’s vet appointments.
Due to his age, doctors were concerned about the issues Chester might experience as he grew, including migrating bone shards. Mel also had to do her best to keep the cute kitten’s face dry, as the injuries Chester had sustained left him unable to completely close his mouth, resulting in skin issues caused by excessive drool and bits of food. She also had to closely monitor his pain levels, which isn’t always easy when dealing with a cat. “I was neurotic about never wanting him to be in pain again,” says Mel. “When they are sick or hurt, they can’t say anything, so you have to learn to read anything that is out of their ordinary behavior as communication.”
As vets had feared, some of the bone shards moved around as Chester grew, and he ended up having a total of four surgeries to address issues like necrotic tissue, a misaligned jaw, calcification on his lower jaw, and a migrating tooth nerve. While these procedures have helped Chester live a life free from pain, they have also made him a bit anxious around strangers. “With each surgery he became a bit more shy, so that now when people come over he runs and hides,” explains Mel. “He didn’t start like that — it’s been the surgeries and hospitalizations that have changed him.”
However, Chester is incredibly sweet and loving with his foster parents, as well as Bitty and the other foster kittens who share his home. Consequently, Mel believes he will eventually become more outgoing in his forever home, but he will need an adopter who is willing and able to give him the time he needs to adjust to a new family and environment.
“We’re really looking for someone who has the patience to be okay with giving more than they might get back at first,” explains Mel. “Someone who knows and understands his story and says, ‘I will absolutely be here for you buddy and we will work on this together!’ ”
Ideally, Mel and her husband would love to see Chester find a quiet home, most likely without children and their associated noise and energy. “Chester has become so timid that he needs a lot of quiet time to regain his confidence,” says Mel. They also want Chester to be adopted with Bitty, his best friend and constant companion.
Surprisingly, while he comforted Bitty when she was a fearful little kitten, their roles have reversed over time, and now she nurtures Chester, giving him the love and friendship he needs to feel safe.
“She’s always got her eye on him and immediately runs to him if he meows,” explains Mel. “She sits on top of him and bathes his face for him, and is always cuddling him to sleep.” In fact, their relationship is so special, Mel — who has fostered countless kittens — has never seen a pair of cats who love each other as much as Chester and Bitty do.
In addition to finding a family who is willing to adopt both cats, Wrenn Rescues would like to place Chester and Bitty with people who live in the Los Angeles area. “The rescue prefers that the adopter live somewhat near so that they can go to one of their vets — at the rescue’s expense — for Chester’s life,” explains Mel. Wrenn Rescues will consider potential adopters who live farther away, but they have to be aware of the financial responsibility that comes along with Chester, as he may have jaw and arthritic issues in the future.
Chester, who celebrated his first birthday in July 2019, has been through a lot in his short life, both physically and emotionally, but he is a still typical young cat in most ways. Like the average feline, this handsome ginger boy likes to play, and he especially enjoys a game of fetch with his foster parents at the end of each day. “He waits in our bed and gives these tiny little mews saying he is ready,” says Mel. “We have a particular puff ball that’s not too big or too heavy or stiff for his jaw to hold. He wants us to lay in bed and throw it all over the room and brings it back to us.”
In addition to fetch, Chester enjoys bird watching, and he loves helping Mel and her husband care for the kittens they foster for Wrenn Rescues. “He greets them with open arms and plays with them immediately,” says Mel. While Chester’s sweet and easygoing attitude is admirable, it still breaks Mel’s heart when she thinks about how accepting this special boy has been of his terrible fate.
After all, this one-year-old cat has had to endure four surgeries, lots of minor procedures, and countless hours of pain, all because he was the suspected victim of an animal abuser.”I want people to know that this is happening — daily — and we need help to stop it,” says Mel. “People should know the statistics of animal abuse: who is doing it, how to recognize the signs, how to report it, and what it leads to in the community.”
While caring for Chester has shown Mel what the worst side of humanity can do, it has also exposed her to some remarkable people who are doing their best to help animals in need. Not only have strangers sent this adorable boy food and toys, they helped make it possible for Chester to get the medical care he desperately needed. “When his fourth and final surgery came up a few months back, the rescue asked people for help with his upcoming bill,” says Mel. “and it was financed within 24 hours. That amazed me.”
Chester, who is so sweet and innocent in spite of the cruelty he’s suffered, is obviously an inspiration, including to Mel, who has had medical issues of her own, and her husband. “He’s inspired me to be better, and nicer, and braver with my own surgeries,” says Mel, and she hopes Chester will be adopted by people who will give him the time, love, and attention he needs to thrive. “Do I love Chester? Absolutely. He is beyond special.”
If you’re interested in adopting Chester and Bitty, you can complete an adoption application.
You can also follow Chester and Bitty on Instagram.