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My Life with Xena

The Story of a Kitten Born with Dwarfism

Xena <3 

My time with Xena has been spent trying to make her as comfortable and as strong as soon as possible. Xena is about half a pound now at almost seven weeks old, and we have realized that she suffers from dwarfism. While her sister is small, small enough to where we considered dwarfism within her as well, she is almost a pound, and much bigger than her sister. 

Both of the girls are absolute sweet-hearts, adore playing with each other, and spend ALL of their time together. However, Lexa is leaving for her home on the sixth, and for the first time in her life, Xena will be without her. This is something that I don't usually have to worry about when splitting up litters, but I am actually worried that Lexa's leaving may have a severe impact on Xena's well-being and health. 

Xena and Lexa are ALWAYS together, whether it be sleeping together, eating together, or exploring.

A few days ago now, I brought Xena inside because the older cats were beginning to make her sick, and she developed an upper respiratory infection — something that could VERY easily kill her at this age. Not only that, but I've also been battling fleas. Unfortunately, for a cat this size, there is almost nothing that I can use to prevent fleas without harming her. 

I cannot use any flea medication, I can only do flea baths 1–2 times a week due to the cold and her upper respiratory infection, and flea brushing her is a super long process because her skin is so sensitive that you have to be very careful with how much pressure you put while brushing her out. 

So not only is this little angel about a fifth of the size she should be, but she has fleas, she has an upper respiratory infection, and is so small and weak that she cannot even lift her head to look up while she's walking; she just stares at the ground the entire time that she moves. 

So I decided that it was time to bring her inside from the cat coop where the cats have a large enclosed structure outside that is insulated to keep them completely warm during the winter and cooled off during the summer. I had a college class, so the little angel stayed in a carrier while I was gone. 

When I came back, Xena was screaming. She was screaming like she was being murdered. I immediately sprinted into the room and tried to assess what was wrong while quite frankly freaking the hell out myself. There was nothing wrong with her. She was not injured, nothing was harming her, and the minute I picked her up the screaming stopped. She was just scared to be alone. 

I brought her down in a very large long rodent cage to the downstairs in the dining room, where her cage is pressed directly up next to our friendly old ferrets, so they can both always have someone near them. I even ended up bringing Lexa inside so they can be in their cage together. They have a litterbox in their cage, a food and water dish, and a small cat bed for kittens. 

They love each other, and ever since I put them in there they snuggle together to keep warm every night, eat together, play together, and spend hours cleaning each other. But now, Lexa will be leaving in three days. Lexa will be leaving and Xena will be by herself again. Even though she's in a room where the older cats that we're keeping are always walking around, directly next to the ferret at all times, and sees us walking around 24/7, I know she will be heartbroken without her sister.

If I didn't have any other cats, I would keep them both and allow them to stay together forever. Unfortunately, I already have eight cats in my house, not including Xena, that are indoor cats and our family is keeping them. Some of these cats we've had for about eight years now. They're definitely not going anywhere, and neither is Xena — but Lexa is. 

I may just be thinking negatively. Maybe Xena will be fine with Lexa leaving. Maybe some way, somehow, she'll even be happier. But unfortunately, I know that that isn't the case. I may be granted a miracle, and she'll turn out just fine... all I can do is hope.

Xena is a Maine Coon/Siamese kitten and will keep her blue eyes for her entire life we believe. At seven weeks old in four days, her eyes should have changed by now, but they haven't, and neither have Lexa's. Both of the girls have beautiful bright blue orbs that just warm your heart every time that you look at them. 

They're beautiful calico kittens, and both of them will end up being medium-haired from what I am assuming and what I have seen in the past. I have had many offers for potential adopters for Xena, but I do not trust anyone other than myself and my family to be able to provide her the care that she needs and will need throughout her life. 

Xena is already showing neurological symptoms, which is not good for her age. Some of the side effects of dwarfism in cats result in the following: 

  • Larger than normal head
  • Undershot jaw with shorter nose
  • Crooked teeth due to shorter jaw
  • Abnormal bone shape
  • Poor growth or lack of growth
  • Bones appear shorter than normal
  • Enlarged joints
  • Sideways bowing of forelimbs — front legs are more likely affected
  • Spinal deviation to either side of the body

Xena already has five of those symptoms, and she is not even two months old yet... and those are the PHYSICAL defects that you can see with your eyes. The internal effects are obesity, a bunch of different types of cancers, organs not developing correctly, multiple usually singled organs, and then the short life expectancy. 

That is what worries me the most... the life expectancy. I have attached myself to Xena so heavily and so strongly that I would honestly be heart-broken if she were to die suddenly. I get anxiety every single time I walk up to her cage and see Lexa laying on top of her because I can never see if she's breathing or not. Whenever she sleeps with me (which is always accidental, I sometimes fall asleep with her on my chest) and I wake up, I always worry that she'll have drifted off in her sleep. 

I have brought Xena to the vets, and they didn't find anything super wrong with her other than the obvious size issue. That put me at ease at least a little bit. However, I know how quickly severe and life-threatening problems can arise in cats. 

A Halloween Photo-Shoot Profile Shot

Xena modeling for our Halloween photo-shoot that the kittens get to do annually.

Every single time that I take Xena out, whether it be bringing her inside from the cat coop, or taking her out of her cage, she immediately curls up in my arms. It is what she is known for. I have carried Xena in stores, gone on hour-long car-rides with her, and moved between stores and the car up to four times on a trip and she will just stay asleep in my arms the entire time. 

She loves snuggling, and she loves being with me. I'm her therapy human to deal with her separation anxiety, and she's my therapy cat to help me deal with my PTSD, anger, and anxiety — unofficially, of course. However, I am considering pursuing a more official title of her as my therapy cat.

When I am with Xena, I feel nothing but happiness, warmth, and love. I cannot be negative when I'm around her. She sucks the negativity out of me and throws it away. She gives me something to put my heart and soul into and has taught me so much more about the love you can have for animals... which is something I thought I already knew.

Although staring at the face of all of Xena's future problems is daunting and terrifying, I will continue to stand by her for as long as she may live. I will do everything in my power to make sure she lives a healthy, comfortable, happy life. I will be grateful for everything she brings me, and I will continue to love and remember her even after she is gone. 

If you would like to follow Xena's story, you can like our rescue's Facebook page.

Emmeline Reader
Emmeline Reader

Hello everyone, my name is Emmeline and I run a feral/stray cat rescue out of Swanton, VT in the US. I specialize in socializing and taming these cats before they go to their homes, and I love them all.

-Barn Cat Conservation Society-

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