When Mercedeh Ward’s daughter Arianna brought a tiny kitten home in August 2014, she instantly knew there was something unusual about the 8-week-old feline who weighed approximately four ounces and measured just four inches long. “I knew immediately something was wrong and took her to our vet,” remembers Mercedeh.
The kitten — who Mercedeh’s daughter named Mili — had four litter mates, all average-sized and relatively healthy cats, while she was an eighth of their size and very unwell. “She was underweight and underdeveloped,” explains Mercedeh. “Our vet diagnosed her with dwarfism and hydrocephalus. She sent us to the emergency hospital because Mili needed special care and had to have her body functions normalized.”
Mili was admitted to the hospital, and during her stay, doctors diagnosed the exceptionally tiny kitten with a number of other conditions, including blindness, malformed bones, and megacolon. While the cause of megacolon is often unknown, it’s a serious condition where the muscles of the colon are unable to contract, which can often lead to constipation.
With so many different health challenges to contend with, the prognosis for Mili wasn’t good. “Different vets at the emergency room saw Mili for seven days and only one told me to keep her,” says Mercedeh.
Concerned about the little kitten’s quality of life, Mercedeh asked the doctors if she was in pain, and they all assured her that Mili wasn’t suffering. “So I said, ‘We will give her the best life a little kitty can have and as long as she wants to live,’ ” remembers Mercedeh.
Eventually, veterinarians managed to stabilize Mili and she was discharged from the hospital, allowing Mercedeh to take the diminutive cat home to live with her and her family in Torrance, California.
At the time, Mili was unable to eat on her own, so Mercedeh began bottle feeding the tiny kitten, determined to help her continue to gain weight and develop. “I bottle fed Mili for almost six months until she reached two pounds,” says Mercedeh, at which point the young cat was able to eat somewhat on her own.
However, Mili has never been able to drink from a bowl, so three years later, she still needs her family’s help to stay hydrated. “Mili to this day has to be watched and fed,” says Mercedeh. “She also can’t use her tongue, so we have to syringe feed water to her.”
Thankfully, Mercedeh is allowed to bring Mili to work, so she and her coworkers are able to give this incredibly cute cat the extra attention she requires.
While Mercedeh and her colleagues absolutely adore Mili — she even has her very own name badge! — this tiny cat’s grandmother realizes that not everyone is willing or able to take on this level of responsibility when it comes to adopting a pet.
“I think most people are not willing to spend the money or the time it takes to care for a special needs kitty,” says Mercedeh.
Thankfully, when Mercedeh’s daughter brought Mili home with her nearly four years ago, this extremely special girl found a family filled with people who are more than willing to give her everything she needs to have the best life possible.
Since adopting Mili, this little cat — who loves snuggling, eating, and riding in the car — has had some ups and downs, including a severe case of pneumonia that doctors thought she might not be able to survive. “I was on a business trip and it was hell for me until I came home and could see her,” says Mercedeh.
Fortunately, Mili managed to pull through the illness, although the bout of pneumonia revealed that this tiny kitten was born without a spleen and is missing one of her lungs. “Our vet calls Mili the miracle cat that lived,” says Mercedeh.
At times, caring for Mili has been expensive and extremely stressful, but Mercedeh has never regretted adopting this unique girl and she hopes other people will open their homes and their hearts to special needs cats. “Please give them a chance,” says Mercedeh. “The love that they give us back has no limits.”
While Mili — who will turn four this July — is still a young cat, she’s had a lot of challenges throughout her short life. However, this special girl has also had many triumphs, and there are so many people who love her and want her to continue thrive, including Mercedeh’s coworkers who take turns holding and feeding Mili and lavishing her with attention.
Still, there’s no one Mili has a stronger connection with than Mercedeh herself, the person who fought for this little cat’s life when several experts advised putting her to sleep. Years later, just as Mili wouldn’t be here without her family, Mercedeh can’t imagine where she’d be without this unique girl. “She is an old soul,” says Mercedeh. “I am not sure what we would do without Mili.”
To learn more about this adorable cat, you can follow Mili on Instagram.