Selective cat takes sick kitten under his wing

Elton the cat and Binks the kitten nose-to-nose on a red platform
Elton was never really a fan of other cats, but then he met Binns, a little kitten who needed a friend.
By Sarah Thornton

Don’t let the sad eyes fool you; Elton is a big love bug. He adores people and would happily spend all day being held, cuddled, and loved on if he could. And when he wants attention, he lets you know in a way you couldn’t possibly say no to: leaping directly into your arms for a big kitty hug and snuggling in as close as he can. It’s pretty adorable.

But Elton’s big shows of affection have never quite extended to his fellow felines. Because Elton is on a special diet for allergies, he calls one of the Cat World offices at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary his home. And for the most part, he gets to enjoy and keep it all to himself. He’s tolerated a few temporary roommates — cats who shared his same diet or kittens who needed some extra TLC — and made it clear he wasn’t going to tolerate others. But he’s always limited his friendships to humans only, thank you very much.

At least until Binns showed up.

A sensitive new roommate

It was the depths of “kitten season” — a time that can last from spring until early winter, when shelters and rescue organizations are flooded with thousands of young kittens — when Binns and his littermates arrived at the Sanctuary. The whole fluffy family went directly into a foster home where they thrived — growing bigger, stronger, and more playful day after day — until they were ready to be spayed or neutered. They moved from their foster home to Cat World.

[Fuzz, fluff and fun: Foster to save lives this kitten season]

Little Binns, it seemed, was a bit more sensitive to change and stress than his siblings. While they took the move in stride, going right back to running and playing after recovering from their surgeries, Binns shut down. He wasn’t very interested in crunchy dry food or yummy wet food, and he wasn’t growing nearly as fast as his brothers and sisters. And when caregiver Ashley McDaniel — who shared Elton’s office — noticed the thin little kitten, she made a decision: “I’m gonna take this kitten to my office and fatten him up.”

To keep a close eye on him and not to invade too much of Elton’s “personal space,” Ashley set up Binns in a mesh popup tent beside her desk. She syringe-fed him several times a day to make sure he was getting much-needed nutrition and calories, and she kept careful tabs on his weight. All the while, Elton watched from a distance, not too keen on sharing his room yet again but content at least that the small newcomer was enclosed.

With one-on-one attention, Binns made up for lost time and finally hit a growth spurt. He perked up and started showing his feisty side — and he wanted to get out of his tent and play. So he left the office to be introduced into a room full of other playful kittens, with hardly a second look from Elton. But he wouldn’t be gone long.

Sick kitten needs a friend

Shortly after Binns moved in with his new roommates, he and a few of the other kittens came down with an infection of streptococcus, the same type of bacteria that causes strep throat in humans. It was easy enough to treat most of the kittens with a round of antibiotics, but sensitive little Binns was in for a tougher time. He ended up catching an additional viral infection. And this one would need much more attention and treatment to beat.

Because Binns’ illnesses weren’t a risk to Elton and he needed to be closely monitored, it was right back to the popup tent in the office for the tiny tabby. When Elton saw him return, there were a few cautious hisses until he seemed to recognize the little one and calmed back down. “It was better than we’ve ever seen Elton with another cat,” Ashley says.

[A friendship story: Two cats together through thick and thin]

So as Binns started recovering and feeling better, Ashley slowly began letting him out of the tent to explore the office and meet Elton face to face. And it didn’t take long for Elton to completely fall for him. While Binns had been a bit too rough with his kitten playmates (he’d never had the chance to learn appropriate playtime rules about teeth and claws from his littermates), Elton was quite the roughhouser himself, so their play styles aligned perfectly. They played, and then they snuggled. And then caregivers caught Elton thoroughly engrossed in giving his new charge a full grooming session, both cats purring as loud as can be.

It wasn’t just super-duper cute though; that connection was important for Binns. “If a cat is stressed or they’re not getting what they need, it can make it more difficult for them to recover,” explains Ashley. “So him having Elton, having a cat who will play rough with him … has actually been great for Binns.”

Bright future for role model and mini-me

These days, Binns is almost back to tip-top shape. He has a bit longer to wrap up treatment for the viral infection, but he’s otherwise healthy and happy, darting after jingly balls and leaping into the air after wand toys. There is no end to this kitten’s energy.

“Sometimes they’ll just chase each other up and down the hallways,” Ashley says. “And Elton will get to a point where he’s like, ‘OK, I’m tired; I’m done.’ But Binns usually takes longer to get to that point. He will push it for a little bit, but then he’ll give up and take a nap.”

In many ways, Binns has become Elton’s mini-me. He follows the older cat’s lead in most things, and — short of Elton’s leaping hugs — Binns has learned the art of people-charming from him. You can see it in the way he approaches new faces, his confident footsteps and expression so much like his role model’s.

Having Binns around has made a difference for Elton, too. He has a playmate to entertain him when the people are away, and his caregivers are excited to know he is, in fact, able to make feline friends. He’s just a little picky. “It's been great to see him interact with a cat this way,” says Ashley. “It’s really fun and cute and hopeful to see him have a friend like that — to play and cuddle.”

And maybe, in the future, this experience will open up Elton to making more friends. Or perhaps he just has a special soft spot for kittens who really need someone to look out for them.

Have room in your home and heart?

If you’re ready for a little more fun, love and happiness, head to your local shelter and adopt a cat or dog.

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