## Kitten Born With Deformity Gets Totally Unexpected Transformation

When Pinocchio the kitty first arrived at Los Angeles' Friends for Life Rescue Network, founder Jacqueline Santiago knew that, despite his good spirits, he had a number of health issues that needed immediate assistance. Doctors were eager to help him fully recover, but even they were caught off guard by this cat's unheard-of transformation.

Jacqueline “DeAmor” Santiago

For as long as Jacqueline “DeAmor” Santiago could remember, she had a passion for anything that had to do with caring for animals. That was why she helped create one of Los Angeles' most popular animal rescue shelters.

Friends For Life Rescue Network

Friends for Life Rescue Network (FFLRN) worked around the clock nurturing animals who came from rough homes or were in need of medical assistance from accidents. The team behind Jacqueline was equally as dedicated.

Reaping The Benefits

Everyone at the organization was a volunteer, and even though no one earned a living through their animal work, it was more important to know they were saving lives. Especially when it came to a little kitty named Pinocchio.

Pinocchio Arrives

Even though Pinocchio came from a tumultuous household, he was all purrs when he arrived at the Los Angeles organization. He had a slew of health issues he needed taken care of, and it wasn't going to be easy.

Pinocchio's Misaligned jaw

The most obvious of the ailments? A misaligned jaw bone that caused his mouth to look as if it had a sideways smirk. But, that was only one of his issues.

Ravenous And Sleepy

He was no Garfield; it looked as though Pinnochio hadn't eaten a proper meal in days. Upon arriving, workers gave him two full cans of food that he devoured right before nestling up in a cozy bed and getting some much needed rest.

Keeping Active

Over the course of a few days, it seemed like Pinocchio was gaining more strength by the minute. He was keeping active and his muscle mass was improving. Of course, he needed more than just strength.

X-Ray Troubles

The medical team pointed out an in issue in one of Pinocchio's pre-surgery scans: "X-rays show his chest shape has completely changed over the last few weeks," the surgeon said. This caused his breathing to suffer.

Getting To Work

He was also fighting off a rough upper-respiratory infection and suffering from a painful umbilical hernia. These issues required more than food and rest, so doctors got to work once he adjusted to life at FFLRN.

Delicate Care Required

The fact Pinocchio was only three months old meant extra-delicate care was required with his brittle body. But, he was a trooper, and he came out of surgery with a new lease on life.

A Joyous Greeting

After the operations were over, Jacqueline and the rest of the staff visited the little guy at the Animal Speciality and Emergency Center where the surgeries took place. He responded with an army of purrs as they admired his progress.

"Such A Good Boy"

Jacqueline said of Pinocchio after emerging from surgery, "He completely won over the entire staff team who took care of him. They said he purred so loud they couldn't hear his heart, such a good boy."

Temporary Stay

Pinocchio was eventually going to find a foster home for a permanent stay, but until that happened, Jacqueline brought him back to her place where he was greeted with a new bed and plush toy.

Excited About Life

Not only was the cat's breathing significantly smoother, but the flea issue was totally resolved, and it seemed like he was excited about life overall. This was the kind of change everyone prayed for beforehand.

"More Active Every Day"

"I came home yesterday to a very playful boy who wanted lots of scritches. He has been up and about and is feeling much better and getting more active every day," said Jacqueline.

A Fluffy Superhero

Of course, to show everyone just how far he came and how powerful he was feeling, Pinocchio donned a Superman shirt for the first several days! The guy really was like a tiny fluffy superhero.

A Strong Spirit

"His spirit is just as it was," Jacqueline said. "He is a strong, playful, loving sweetheart with the biggest purrs. When he sees me, he shoots out of the bed (a little too fast) and comes right over for pets."

That VIP Lifestyle

Pinocchio deserved a huge toast for his magical journey through the Friends for Life Rescue Network. He was once a lost little kitten in need to help, and now he was living his life like a VIP!

Deserving Of Love

As excited as Jacqueline was about Pinocchio's health, she was most happy for him to eventually mingle with other cats. Pinocchio's recovery was in large part due to identifying his unique condition early on. Jaqueline has been trying to spread awareness about health issues among cats to other shelters in her community.

Stranded Kitties

Fortunately, this paid off sooner than later when a random passerby spotted a litter of five kittens stranded in the rough and tumble streets of California in 2020, he knew they were in desperate need of a hero. They were only four weeks old.

A Safe Haven

He brought the quintet of kittens to San Jose's Mini Cat Town, which is dedicated to "creating a safe haven for kittens in the Bay Area." The frightened cats were in good hands — but their problems weren't solved.

Foster Mama

With over 340 cats and kittens under its belt, Mini Cat Town has been rescuing felines ever since 2015. One of its volunteers, Sonja, vowed to be the kittens' foster mama, taking them into her care.

Tiny Tina

Though all of the fur babies were precious, it was Tina, a tabby with an adorably circular face, who was the standout of the bunch. She was just a bit smaller than her siblings, so it was likely that she was just the runt... right?

Exploring Her Surroundings

"Her first day at our place was full of exploration. Her shyness gave way to curiousness and a love for sitting on someone's lap in a matter of minutes," Sonja explained to Love Meow. She was the ultimate cuddle bug.

Red Flags

As Sonja watched her rescued foster kitties grow, Tina still seemed different. Sonja had a strong gut feeling that Tina wasn't simply the runt of the litter. She wasn't growing at the same speed as the other kittens, Marvin, Aretha, Diana, and Nina.

Small-Boned

And Sonja wasn't the only one who noticed Tina's odd little physical quirks. "She looks much different from the rest of her siblings," said Mini Cat Town co-founder Thoa Bui. "Her skull is wider and her bones are shorter and thicker."

Honey, I Shrunk The Cat

Not only that, but she wasn't putting on weight as fast as the rest of the litter. But little Tina wasn't going to let her miniscule size stop her from enjoying the perks of kittenhood.

Chill and Curious

Tina wrestled with her siblings and swatted at toys like nobody's business; it's almost as if she never noticed she was unique. "She is extremely chill but also very curious. She always wants to know what the others are up to," explained Sonja.

Territorial Tina

"She also loves to play with toy balls and mice, and can get pretty territorial over them," Sonja said. Just imagine little Tina getting territorial over a colorful feather toy! So adorable.

Time for a Checkup

"She is sweet and enjoys everyone's company. Her favorite thing to do is to just hang out with whoever is nearby," Thoa stated. Cuddled up next to her rapidly-growing siblings, Tina still looked as though she was four weeks old. It was time to have a vet check her out.

Poked and Prodded

Tina was poked and prodded by a specialist, who then provided Sonja and Mini Cat Town with her diagnosis. "She has what's called chondrodystrophy, aka chondrodysplasia, which is a canine form of dwarfism," Thoa said. In other words?

Living With Dwarfism

"She was found like this and occurrences of these abnormalities are rare," Thoa continued. Some signs of chondrodysplasia (which literally means abnormal growth of cartilage) are shortened limbs and flared metaphyses. And no, there's no treatment for this. Tina, however, is getting by.

A Whole New World

Though she's only a kitten, it's truly inspiring to see that nothing stops Tina from acting like a "normal" cat. "Recently she's started to climb and jump on things more, which has opened up a whole new world for her to explore," Thoa stated. Though, Tina has a loaded agenda.

Zonked Out

"Once she's done exploring, she'd ideally nap in your lap for a few hours. If you are not available, a fluffy bed will have to do." What a spoiled little angel. And with this increased agility, Tina has discovered cozy new nooks and crannies.

Climbing Mountains

While climbing mountains of furniture, Tina discovered a little cubby in the TV console, one that's perfect for cuddling into and hiding away when she's in desperate need of some alone time. Tiny Tina's foster family aimed to give her as much mobility as possible, even building little steps for her.

Iffy Future

And while Tina may seem like a miniature version of a regular ol' cat now, that may change in the future. "Though she is healthy now, kittens with this form of dwarfism may have complications with their health in the future, as malformations can exist undetected or form later in life," Thoa detailed.

A Different Adoption Process

Tina's adoption process will be much different than that of her siblings. Adopting a special needs cat isn't for everyone, so her adoptive family will have to be extremely dedicated and empathetic.

A Committed Family

"She'll need to be adopted to a family who can commit to lifelong special needs care, should it arise," Thoa continued. Caring for a special needs animal (or any animal, really) isn't something you can simply change your mind about later on.

Thoa's Rescue Tales

We just know that Tina and her adorable, round face will find a kind, compassionate, patient forever family soon enough. C'mon, who could resist that squishy face! And while Thoa, a Mini Cat Town co-founder and treasurer, has been an important piece to several rescue tales (or tails) , rescuing little Rosie was a bit more personal.

Kitten on the Streets

It's sad to think of a ball of fluff (tiny enough to fit in a teacup) left to fend for itself on the streets of San Jose, California. When sisters Thoa, Thi, and Tram Bui witnessed this exact reality in early 2016, they just had to step in.

A Stray Rescued

They immediately took the 3-week-old kitten home, where Thoa had experience rescuing helpless creatures. The sisters told ABC News that by the time they rescued the stray kitten, she was "malnourished, lethargic and dying."

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