Prior to getting her spayed, Angela Alameda’s cat unexpectedly gave birth to a litter of kittens on July 17, 2016, and almost immediately she noticed the runt of the litter was born with a cleft lip, an opening or split in the upper lip that extends into the nose. “I did some research about cats with cleft lips,” says Angela. “I found that cats that also have a cleft palate very rarely survive because it is difficult for them to eat.”
Angela immediately examined the roof of the tiny kitten’s mouth, and she was happy to discover she wasn’t born with a cleft palate — an opening or split in the roof of the mouth — in addition to a cleft lip. “I felt very relieved and believed she could actually live a long and happy life,” says Angela, and she named the little cat Tinkerbell, or Tink, in honor of her diminutive size.
Despite being smaller than her siblings, Tink appeared to be just as healthy as her litter mates, even though she was born with malformed hind legs in addition to a cleft lip. However, one day Angela noticed Tink was being rejected by her biological mother, making it difficult for the tiny special needs kitten to nurse. “I put her back in [the nest of nursing kittens] and she fought to eat,” remembers Angela. “She was a fighter for sure and very strong-willed and feisty, so I knew she would be OK!”
Initially, Angela had planned to find a good home for Tink, but the more time she spent with the incredibly cute ginger kitten, the harder it became for her to imagine letting her go. “Her little personality bloomed very quickly and we just absolutely fell in love with her!” remembers Angela, so she and her family decided to adopt her.
More than four years later, Tink — who, like her mother, has been spayed in an effort to help prevent pet overpopulation — is doing extremely well, and while she looks a bit different from the average feline, her cleft lip doesn’t have much of an impact on her health. “She might sneeze a little bit more than a normal cat because her nasal canal is so exposed,” explains Angela, “but other than that, she is just a normal cat!”
Like a typical cat, Tink loves to cuddle, and not only will she snuggle with her mom in bed every night, this special girl will even climb onto Angela’s shoulders while she’s using the bathroom.
She also likes to play, but there is nothing Tink adores more than eating. “She loves food and really enjoys a nice treat,” says Angela. “She always begs me for my food too.”
Thankfully, Tink doesn’t need to eat a special diet, but cats with openings that connect to their noses are at risk of food getting lodged in the malformed areas, which can lead to serious infections. While cats with more severe cleft lips might require surgery to address this issue, Tink’s veterinarian has determined she doesn’t need to have an operation to have a good quality of life. “I think a lot of people see animals with deformities and immediately think they need to be put to sleep because they can’t possibly live a long, happy life,” says Angela, “but that is just not the case.”
After all, Tink — who will celebrate her fifth birthday this July — is just as happy and active as any other cat her age, and she and her mom share a very deep and special bond that has only gotten stronger over time. “Tink is my baby!” says Angela. “She is always by my side. I love her so much and I honestly don’t know what I would do without her.”
To learn more about this beautiful cat, you can follow Tink on Instagram.