When a volunteer for a trap-neuter-return (TNR) program brought a tiny kitten into the clinic where Ashley works as a veterinarian technician, it was obvious the newborn cat was in desperate need of medical attention. “They brought the kitten in and she only weighed a few ounces, was covered in fleas, and having shaking episodes,” remembers Ashley. “We knew she was only a few days old when she was brought into the clinic because she still had her umbilical cord attached and her eyes and ears were still closed.”
The volunteer rescued the tabby kitten — who just a few weeks old — after a mother cat dropped the young feline in her driveway in late April 2017 and took off running. “They put the kitten in a little box and left her outside thinking she would come back and pick her baby up, but she never did,” explains Ashley. Convinced the tiny cat had been abandoned, the volunteer brought the kitten inside her home and began feeding her, but when she started having seizures, she knew the tabby feline needed more help than she could provide.
Initially, Ashley’s boss thought the newborn kitten was hypoglycemic, and the volunteer agreed to surrender her to the clinic where they could work to stabilize the young cat by getting her on a good feeding schedule. “Before leaving the clinic for the day, the vet asked if I would take her for the night since she had a meeting to go to and she didn’t want to leave her alone for a long period of time,” explains Ashley. “I took her home that night and my girlfriend and I fell in love with her.”
After ridding the little kitten of fleas, Ashley and her girlfriend Spencer spent that evening waking up every two to three hours to bottle feed the sickly cat. “After the first night, her seizures stopped,” remembers Ashley. “I was very surprised and overjoyed because I didn’t really expect her to make it through the first night, but against all odds, she did.”
The following day, Ashley decided the little tabby needed a name, and she took care to choose the perfect moniker for a special girl who was both fragile and fierce, Koa. “The word Koa is Hawaiian for warrior,” explains Ashley. “I knew that she needed a name with some strength behind it. She was just so frail and sickly, so I thought if I gave her a big name to grow into then maybe she would be okay.”
Smitten with tiny cat, Ashley agreed to foster Koa long-term, eventually weaning her from the bottle to wet cat food, but as the young feline got older, she didn’t grow at a normal rate. “Other kittens that were around the same age were easily two to three times her size,” says Ashley. “She also had an enormous appetite and was constantly searching for food.”
Immediately, Ashley’s boss suspected that Koa had hyperthyroidism, but after the diminutive kitten’s blood work came back normal, the vet diagnosed her with dwarfism.
Around this time, Koa began having chronic constipation, and Ashley had to administer enemas multiple times a day to help her have bowel movements. “After doing x-rays we found out she has what is called megacolon; her colon is a lot larger than what it’s supposed to be,” explains Ashley. “In addition to the colon being larger than normal, it also doesn’t contract and move stool through like it should.”
While no one knows if Koa was born with megacolon or developed the condition after having chronic constipation, she began having normal bowel movements after she started eating Royal Canin Gastrointestinal High Energy food and taking a laxative and cisapride, a motility-enhancement medication.
Not surprisingly, after providing Koa with such intensive care, Ashley and Spencer couldn’t bear to part with their first foster feline and decided to adopt this adorable special needs cat. “I think that it happened for a reason because she definitely needed to be in a family that understood her health problems and was willing to commit to caring for them,” says Ashley. More than a year after Koa came to live with Ashley and her girlfriend in their home in Edgewater, Florida, this cute dwarf cat is doing better than ever.
While Koa — in addition to megacolon and dwarfism — has clubbed front paws and claws that are constantly retracted, she’s an otherwise normal cat who loves playing with her older sister, Lucy, and her younger sister, Pumpkin. “Koa and Pumpkin are twin terrors,” says Ashley. “They are constantly getting into trouble. They both love to wrestle and chase balls around, especially at four in the morning.”
However, due to her small size, Koa needs some help getting around, especially when it comes to jumping. “I do try to monitor her while I’m home and help her on and off larger pieces of furniture,” says Ashley, “but I can only imagine what she gets up to when I’m not home.”
Koa, who was abandoned by her mother as kitten, also loves to cuddle, especially with the women who bottle fed her when she was a tiny, sickly cat. “Koa is probably the one of the most snuggly cats I have ever met,” says Ashley. “She is constantly in my lap or laying on my chest.”
Despite everything this special girl has been through in her short life, Koa is exceedingly energetic, affectionate, friendly, and most importantly, happy. “She has the loudest purr that you can hear from across the room and I can see how happy she is,” says Ashley. “She is super talkative and is constantly meowing to get your attention.”
However, during the 12 months Koa has lived with Ashley and Spencer, this little cat’s favorite activity hasn’t changed one bit. “She is known to steal food whenever she has the opportunity,” says Ashley. “Koa grabbed one of my enchiladas and tried to run away with it. I’m pretty sure it weighed more than she did!”
Without a doubt, Koa has a happy and active life, but caring for this unique girl hasn’t always been easy, and early on, Ashley found herself wondering if she was doing what was right for this special cat, especially when she was struggling with chronic constipation and required daily enemas. “I can’t tell you how many times I asked my vet if I was putting this tiny kitten through too much and if she thought she was ever going to have a normal life,” says Ashley.
Fortunately, Ashley persisted, and today, Koa is thriving, and her mom believes all of the effort was completely worth saving this little girl’s life. “Special needs animals require a lot of attention, sacrifice, and dedication,” says Ashley, “but let me tell you, the amount of the love you get from them is tenfold.”
While Ashley has found caring for Koa to be immensely rewarding, she urges other people to do their research before making the commitment to adopt a cat with special needs. “Once you adopt them, there is no turning back,” says Ashley. “You’ll fall in love and won’t be able to give them back.”
Not only does Koa — who is fully grown and weighs just three pounds — shower her moms with love and affection, she regularly inspires Ashley to overcome obstacles and achieve her goals. “She has given me inspiration to push through anything difficult that stands in my way,” says Ashley, and what Koa lacks in size, this little cat more than makes up for in personality. “I seriously couldn’t imagine my life without her in it,” says Ashley. “She is a one in a million kitty.”
To learn more about this adorable little cat, you can follow Koa on Instagram.