Smalls, a dwarf cat formerly known as Mouse, is an adorable cat who began his life as a stray cat and was rescued by Best Friends Animal Society in Salt Lake City, Utah. But Smalls’ journey didn’t end at the animal shelter—it had only just begun.
The Crichton’s weren’t looking for a pet, having recently moved from Denver to Salt Lake City, which seemed to be an adventure enough in itself. While they were excited to be nearer to their oldest daughter and grandchildren, they weren’t so happy to leave behind their life-long friends. “You know you’ll stay in touch and make new ones, but somehow there was a hole where comfort used to be,” Curtis Crichton says.
That hole wouldn’t be there for long, however, as one day soon after their move, a work friend of Curtis’ wife, Lana, told Curtis that she was fostering a particularly special kitten—a dwarf cat named Mouse. Initially, the Crichtons decided against meeting the kitten, but after relentless urging from the kitten’s foster mom and a spark of interest in the tiny cat, they gave in.
“He is very precocious—he can’t reach high counters, so he weaseled his way into training us to pick him up by holding himself up on his back legs and meowing until we put him on the counter.”
Not sure what a dwarfed cat would look like, the Crichtons proceeded with a bit of caution, wondering if his short legs would be the only difference between this “special” cat and a “regular” cat. “He has a congenital deformity known as Achondroplasia, or dwarfism,” says Dr. Timna Fischbein, the adoption program veterinarian at Best Friends Animal Society. “Some breeders have taken advantage of this mutation to create the Munchkin breed of cats. He is lucky because he does not seem to display the full extent of the condition as his hind limbs appear to be of normal length.”
The Crichtons noticed that his chest was caved in a bit and that he gasped after he ran. “There are other deformities that sometimes accompany dwarfism, specifically Pectus Excavatum, a deformity in which the sternum, or breast plate, is curved inward creating a hollowed out chest, ” Fischbein says. Smalls’ littermate had such a severe chest deformity that she could not breathe well and could not eat or grow properly (she was eventually euthanized because of her suffering). Early in Smalls’ life, he had experienced similar symptoms, and it was a bit touch and go with him, too. “But the vet kept saying ‘let’s give him a bit more time and see how he does,’” Curtis says, “and I’m so glad they did.”
Upon their first meeting with Smalls, a tiny black and white ball of fur who licked Curtis’ finger and purred, his foster mom suggested that the Crichtons simply take him for a night—and they did. “He slept with us that night and every night since,” says Curtis.
Smalls didn’t demand much, aside from food, water, a clean litterbox, “and us,” says Curtis. “He wanted to be close to us, even running to greet us at the door if we left for a little while.” Soon after, the day came when the Crichtons went to the shelter to sign the contract to make Smalls’ adoption official. There, a woman noted that if they no longer wanted him they could give him back. “Over my dead body,” Curtis remembers saying under his breath.
Today, at about a year old, Smalls is described as a sharp little guy who can truly get around just fine despite his little front legs (however, Fischbein says that having such short limbs could cause him to develop spinal problems and arthritis as he ages). “He goes where he wants to go,” Lana says. “He is very precocious—he can’t reach high counters, so he weaseled his way into training us to pick him up by holding himself up on his back legs and meowing until we put him on the counter.”
He’s creative in getting up there on his own, too. “While fixing breakfast one morning, he went running into the living room where he then jumped on a chair seat, then jumped on the chair back, then to the table and next to another dinning chair and then finally to the counter,” says Curtis. “We do have to watch out for him though, he’s small,” says Lana, “We don’t let him jump down on his own, because he could fracture or hurt his front legs.”
Other than this condition, he is a normal cat. While some have referred to Smalls as a “special needs” cat, Curtis doesn’t identify his pet as having a disability. “I don’t see it that way,” he says. “To me and my wife, he’s family and he always will be our family.”
Images: Courtesy Curtis and Lana Crichton