When kittens Cassidy and Aura made their appearance on a live stream of rescue cats, no one at TinyKittens, a Langley, BC-based rescue group, expected them to become Internet famous. But the duo’s incredible story, perseverance and, yes, super-cuteness made them instant stars. The adorable pair have racked up over 2.7 million views on YouTube alone.
Born into a feral colony, Cassidy was missing both his back legs below the knee. Worse yet, it was soon discovered he had severe infections in both stumps.
“When I did Cassidy’s intake exam, I was heartbroken,” says Shelly Roche, founder of the non-profit focused on helping feral cat communities. “He shouldn’t have been alive, but he refused to give up.”
Shelly rushed him to the emergency vet, and Cassidy’s journey of healing began. She was determined to make sure this tiny, starving kitten experienced love, a full tummy, and freedom from pain.
“Against all odds and every rule of science, Cassidy survived his first night and I brought him home with a long list of instructions, bandages, meds, fluids, and a catheter, which I had to learn how to flush,” Shelly explains.
TinyKittens founder Shelly Roche with Aura.
Cassidy’s fortitude got him through to meeting his best feline friend, Aura, who was born to a feral mom at Shelly’s house. The last of five kittens to be born, Shelly noticed Aura had difficulty nursing and wasn’t gaining weight.
“I opened her mouth to check her palate, and my heart just dropped. She had an enormous hole in the roof of her mouth, which is why she wasn’t able to latch on and nurse,” Shelly says.
But like Cassidy, against the odds, Aura pulled through with a few sinus infections (not aspiration pneumonia as was feared), pleasantly surprising both Shelly and the vet. Cassidy was curious about Aura from the beginning and they were slowly introduced. Their experiences brought them together as playful companions who have fur-sibling moments of hilarity and rowdiness.
“Aura and Cassidy share the same tenacity, resilience, and unsinkable will to live. They seem to sense that in each other, and were fascinated by each other from the time Aura was first introduced,” says Shelly. “Aura has become Cassidy’s emotional support kitten, traveling with him any time he has to go somewhere. She even came along on a trip to see a specialist in Madison, WI about his hips. Her confidence and snuggles bring him comfort, and she loves going on adventures.”
Shelly shares the kitten’s tenacity, not letting adversity stand in her way. There were unexpected challenges, extra vet visits, surgeries, and a home in need of adapting in order to keep Cassidy and Aura comfortable and safe. Plus, big scares: after more than 267 tube feedings, Aura bit her feeding tube in half and swallowed it. She had to have surgery to remove it after it became lodged in her esophagus.
Aura and Cassidy today.
While he isn’t a candidate for prosthetics, Cassidy has tested mobility support prototypes, tiny wheelchairs, stump covers, and other clever solutions. But his stumps healed well enough and he is comfortable scooting around without mobility aids. When she was big enough, Aura also had a palate repair using a donor dog bone, completed in a single surgery.
“I marvel at the obstacles they’ve overcome, their resilience, and their courage,” says Shelly. “During those agonizing early days, it was difficult to picture what their lives could be like, but now I get to see the incredibly full lives they are both living, and that they were worth saving. That’s the greatest gift ever.”