Girl’s toy cats come to life
Velveteen Rabbit, Winnie the Pooh, Toy Story: Tales of beloved toys coming to life are classic — a childhood staple. Children have always imagined the fun adventures they could go on if their favorite stuffed animals really could walk and talk and play with them. Eight-year-old Mila Sano doesn’t have to imagine anymore, because when her parents adopted two homeless cats from Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, her long-treasured stuffed animals came to life.
Molly Sano, Mila’s mother, says the little girl has been obsessed with cats for as long as she can remember. A trip to Costa Rica was all about Mila making friends with every stray cat she could find and wishing she could bring them all home. Never mind flying dozens of cats home from another country. With two young children, Molly and her husband didn’t feel prepared for any cats.
Instead, Mila’s grandparents gave her a pair of plush toy cats ― one Siamese, the other gray — and they quickly became her favorite toys. Mila carried them around everywhere she went. With her stuffed toy cats in tow, Molly says, “(Mila) developed into this responsible kid. She made a little cat-sitting business, business cards, did all this advertising.”
Mila was having fun, but even more important, she was proving her responsibility. And her parents took notice. “We wanted to kind of commemorate that,” Molly says, adding that the family decided it might be time for a cat. “It just felt right. And we knew that if we got one cat, we really needed to get two. So, we decided to find ones that would match her kitties.”
Surprising Mila with real-life versions of her favorite toys
The search for cats matching Mila’s beloved toy cats took Molly and her husband, Chris, on a virtual tour of the country because they couldn’t find them in their home area of Seattle. That virtual tour included the Best Friends website, where they found a young, blue point Siamese cat known for his sweet and affectionate personality. And when Molly explained their plan to surprise her daughter with real-life versions of her favorite stuffed animals, they were then introduced to little a little grey cat. That settled it. They made arrangements to adopt the two kitties and get them to Seattle.
The big surprise, which included happy tears and two excited kids (Mila and Bennett, her brother), was all caught on camera. Chris brought one cat at a time into the living room and placed them on Mila’s lap. The reveal of the two new additions to the family went just as they’d hoped. The real, living versions of her two beloved toys were right there in front of her, purring away, like a dream come true.
Cats bonding with their new family
Mila had the honor of naming the two cats, dubbing them Niko and Kiko. She was eager to introduce them to the stuffed animals that inspired the adoption. And according to Molly, they took to their plush versions quickly. “They do kind of hang out with them, and any time they’re in bed they’ll gravitate to their own likeness. It’s so funny.”
While the cats had not known each other at the Sanctuary (Cat World has many different buildings, after all), a few standoffs quickly turned into the pair spending all day playing, snuggling and napping together. “It looks like they’ve been together their whole lives,” Molly says, “They’re totally inseparable.”
The four snuggle buddies — plush toys and purr machines Niko and Kiko — together are truly a pile of cuteness. It’s not just Mila who’s in love with them. The whole family has fallen for them, and when we say the whole family we mean the whole family. Molly says with a laugh that she and Chris are now totally obsessed: “We want to snuggle them all day and play with them when we should be doing other things, too.”
With school out, the kids have plenty of time for the new pets. Mila plays quietly with Niko and Kiko, reading to them, telling them stories and brushing their fur. Bennett runs around the house, jumping off the furniture with them and playing endless games of fetch with Kiko. With the two children, the cats have found the perfect playmates for every game imaginable.
Even several weeks after the adoption, Mila still finds herself in awe of the whole thing. “I can’t actually believe this really happened,” says Mila. “I keep looking in the refrigerator and I’ll see the cat food and I’m like ‘do I really have cats?’”
Of course, we can’t be sure if stuffed animals ever truly come to life, but surely there was some magic happening in this fairy tale ending. For Mila, her dream of having cats of her very own has come true. And for Niko and Kiko, they got a family all their own.
Photos courtesy of Molly Sano