When Criselle Laura’s gardener rescued four kittens from a village near her home in Manila, Philippines, she offered to help the young cats through Cats of Manila, her rescue organization. While three of the kittens appeared to be around six weeks old when they came to her home in September 2019, one of the cats was tiny and looked much younger than the others, causing Criselle to name him Munchkin.
“The rescuer told me that Munchkin was their sibling and from the same litter,” says Criselle, “but I noticed that Munchkin was significantly smaller than the rest and I was just in denial that he was from the same litter. Even Munchkin’s fur and facial features were obviously different from the others.”
In addition to his small stature, the little black and white kitten had fleas and a respiratory infection, which required multiple trips to the vet. “Even the vet noticed that Munchkin didn’t seem like a normal kitten,” remembers Criselle, so while she was able to find homes for the three other cats, she decided to keep Munchkin until she was confident he was healthy enough to be adopted.
Over time, it became apparent Munchkin wasn’t growing like a typical cat, and he was eventually diagnosed with a metabolic bone disorder. “This condition means his bones are not developing normally,” explains Criselle, and it wasn’t long before Munchkin began having chronic constipation due to his metabolic bone disorder. “His legs are not strong enough to push out feces.”
When Criselle learned Munchkin would require special care and probably would not live as long as a typical cat, she decided to adopt him. “Munchkin’s vet already warned me that taking care of Munchkin won’t get any easier and that his life expectancy will not be that long,” says Criselle, “but I still want to give him the best life.”
Several months later, this incredibly cute black and white cat is doing well thanks to his mom’s excellent care. Not only does Criselle give Munchkin multiple supplements a day, including calcium, lysine powder, multi-vitamins, and two types of laxatives, she also adds freshly cooked pumpkin to his meals to make sure he has plenty of fiber in his diet.
“He eats every eight hours on schedule to avoid constipation,” says Criselle. “I constantly keep track of his stool types and when he is in the litter box.” Also, because Munchkin has a slight overbite, Criselle elevates his food bowl to make sure he doesn’t accidentally get food in his nose, and he refuses to drink from a bowl, so she gives him water via a syringe multiple times a day.
Unfortunately, in spite of everything his mom has done to keep him as healthy as possible, Munchkin has had a few health issues over the past eight months, including a bout of pneumonia in March 2020 that caused his left lung to fill with fluid. “We had to rush him to the vet hours away from us at 2 a.m. because he could not breathe anymore,” says Criselle. “I was stopped at several checkpoints [due to COVID-19 lockdown], but when the soldiers saw how in distress Munchkin was, they let me through.”
Thankfully, Munchkin got the medical treatment he needed, but because he has a weak immune system, he gets sick more easily than a typical cat and it takes him longer to recover from illnesses. “The biggest challenge is keeping him healthy,” explains Criselle. “Once he gets sick, everything becomes a huge risk.”
Fortunately, Munchkin has a wonderful vet who goes above and beyond to provide this tiny cat with the best medical care possible, as well as lots of followers on social media who absolutely adore this very special boy. “I’ve never had a cat like Munchkin who’s been loved by so many,” says Criselle, and every time he’s been hospitalized, she’s received messages of support and concern from his amazing followers.
Thankfully, Munchkin is now in good health, and while he’s not able to jump due to his unique legs, he’s a happy, active, and very playful kitten. Like a typical cat, Munchkin loves eating, sleeping, nibbling on his mom’s fingers, and chasing after the six adult cats who share his home.
“He gives up when they jump somewhere and he can no longer reach them,” says Criselle. Munchkin also enjoys spending time in the garden with his mom each morning, a practice recommended by his vet because sun exposure is important for bone development.
Not surprisingly, this special boy is often mistaken for a munchkin cat, a breed known for their short legs, but Criselle makes sure people realize Munchkin is a rescue cat with special needs, not a purebred feline. “I think people assume — because he is so cute — that it’s easy to take care of him,” says Criselle.
Without a doubt, Munchkin requires more care than a typical cat, but his mom believes he’s definitely worth the extra time and effort. Consequently, Criselle hopes sharing this remarkable kitten’s story will inspire others to consider adopting special needs cats. “I wish people knew how rewarding it can be to see them thrive,” says Criselle.
With his mom’s love and attention, Munchkin is thriving, and while it’s impossible to know how long he’ll live, Criselle will continue to do everything she can to make sure this special cat has a wonderful life. “I cannot rest until I know Munchkin is eating, pooping, sleeping, and breathing properly,” says Criselle. “I’ve given up sleep for him. He means everything.”
To learn more about this adorable kitten, you can follow Munchkin on Instagram.