Finding Nemo a family — the tale of a kitten that, despite the odds, found a happy ending with an adoptive family.
Not much is more cheering than a feline rescue story with a happy ending, but this story is thrice as sweet.
Meet Nemo, Sugarpuff and their mum, Cheerio. This little patchwork family came together thanks to staff at The Cotswolds Dogs and Cats Home animal charity.
Nemo and Sugarpuff
Nemo was taken in by the centre after being abandoned by his mother, and Cheerio and her kitten Sugarpuff were also abandoned and taken in by the centre. Staff decided to try something different, with truly heartwarming results.
Against the odds
Animal care assistant Lydia Jones explains: “Nemo was part of a litter born to a feral mother. A property owner
who knew of the feral cat, noticed that she hadn’t been seen for a couple of days and decided to check on the kittens.
“Unfortunately, two kittens had since passed away, leaving just two alive. It was reported to the RSPCA and an inspector came to collect the two surviving kittens and took them to a nearby centre to be seen by a vet. They were very weak and one didn’t make it through the first night, leaving only one survivor. The centre wasn’t able to offer the lone kitten the care he needed so The Cotswolds Dogs and Cats Home offered to take him on.
“When he arrived, we named him Nemo due to his surviving against the odds, like his Disney namesake. He took to the bottle very well, and was feeding every four hours and began gaining weight immediately. I took him home for the first two nights to get him into a routine, then our resident vet and I took it in turns to have him overnight.”
Cheerio and Sugarpuff came into the centre’s care after their owner moved, leaving the cats behind with unknowing housemates.
Lydia says: “Cheerio had four kittens, but when left alone she escaped through an open window and didn’t make it back into the house before three of her kittens unfortunately passed away from malnutrition.
“Sugarpuff proved himself to be a survivor and was well enough to see his mother return. At this point, the housemates contacted the RSPCA for help and the pair were brought straight into our care. We named them Cheerio and Sugarpuff, mainly due to Sugarpuff being so fluffy.
“Cheerio was a protective mother and looked after Sugarpuff with dedication.”
Pairing Nemo and Sugarpuff
Lydia says it is not uncommon for mother cats to ‘adopt’ orphaned animals and she had the idea of pairing Nemo with the duo. She explains: “A mother cat’s maternal instincts are extremely strong when looking after a litter of their own and so I suggested we try to add Nemo with Sugarpuff.
“I’d never attempted it before, but I spoke to our resident vet and another member of the team with many years of experience who had successfully mixed litters in the past. We decided that we’d be giving him the very best start in life if we gave it a go and succeeded in giving him the family he deserved.
“We got straight to completing all necessary medical checks on Cheerio and Sugarpuff to ensure nothing was transmitted to Nemo. When the blood tests came back clear, we moved Sugarpuff into a carrier and placed Nemo next to him.”
Lydia continues: “We left the kittens in their carrier for 10 minutes, and they swapped their scents.
“We left the carrier just outside of Cheerio’s pod so that she could see the boys together. Once we were ready, I went into the pod and handed the two kittens over to Cheerio together. It was a tense moment as she sniffed both of the kittens, but within 10 seconds she began washing Nemo as if nothing was amiss.
“The next battle was to get Nemo to suckle from Cheerio. He hadn’t been with a mother for over a week and he had gotten used to our routine of four-hourly feeds with a feeding bottle.
Nemo was bottle fed before joining his new family.
“He needed to remember how to suckle from a mother continuously to get enough milk throughout the day. I took a bottle of milk into the pod with me and encouraged him to drink next to Sugarpuff. I managed to get him to latch, and once he had, he was away!”
The new family bonded immediately, with Cheerio becoming instantly protective over her new kitten, even more so, Lydia says, than she was over Sugarpuff, perhaps due to the fact Nemo was younger and weaker.
Lydia says: “Even with all odds against them, they made a loving, happy family and the boys were learning from one another on a
“Sugarpuff is about a week older than Nemo so he was slightly more advanced with his mobility and began trying to play with Nemo, which made Nemo more determined to follow in his footsteps and gain strength.
“Cheerio continued to be a great mother and took care of them both, and taught them important life lessons, such as using a litter tray and how to eat solid foods. They’ve all flourished as a family, and, Nemo in particular, has come out of this as a well-rounded kitten with a strong bond with humans, as well as cats, which has set him up for a great, loving life.
“Although we try to teach our hand-reared kittens all they need to know, we’re not cats and so there’s always something we can’t pass on. Feline body language is an integral part of life for a cat, and kittens need to learn this skill so they can easily build relationships in their future life.
“Nemo is definitely the cuddlier of the two and Sugarpuff is the more adventurous one who is always exploring, climbing, and playing with everything he can find.
“When they’re alone, they love snuggling and playing together, they’re very close brothers.”
For more information, visit: www.cotswoldsdogsandcatshome.org.uk
Cheerio, Sugarpuff, and Nemo became a family.
Happily, Nemo and Sugarpuff have been reserved by a young couple and will be going to their new home together soon. Cheerio is available for rehoming.
Lydia says: “We don’t tend to rehome mothers with their kittens as they often grow weary of their offspring once they’re weaned.
“Cheerio had a complete personality change once the kittens were weaned and separated from her. When she had the kittens, she was quite defensive and protective around them. She would hiss and only let certain staff handle the kittens without objection from her. Since the kittens have moved out, she’s a completely different cat; she’s loving and friendly, and generally a lot more relaxed and content with life. We can’t imagine her being at the centre for long as she’s such a loving little girl who will make a great addition to any home.”
The Cotswolds Dogs and Cats Home is an independent, local charity governed by the RSPCA, that receives zero funding from the national charity. The centre relies solely on the generosity of its followers and adopters.