Mending a kitten's broken heart

Piglet, the black and white tuxedo kitten, sitting in a cardboard box
Kitten survives emergency open-chest surgery and thrives in his foster home.
By Christina London

Unlike the Winnie the Pooh character with the same name, Piglet the kitten is fearless. He hides inside pitch-black paper bags. He dives headfirst into boots without hesitation. He bravely explores houseplants 10 times his size. He even underwent major surgery at just a few weeks old.

Piglet’s adventure begins

Piglet, along with his mom and littermates, came to the Best Friends Lifesaving Center in Salt Lake City from a nearby shelter. The whole family then went to foster care where the kittens could wean and get ready to go to homes of their own. Best Friends’ goal is for all communities nationwide to reach no-kill in 2025, and people who step up to foster pets, either with Best Friends or any animal rescue organization, play a vital part in achieving that goal.

It was that foster volunteer who first noticed trouble with Piglet. He seemed to inhale milk into his lungs while nursing and eventually started throwing up every time he ate. Turns out, Piglet had something called megaesophagus.

“(Megaesophagus) is a very large dilation of the esophagus. That was causing him to vomit and not be able to keep food down,” says Dr. Megan McCarthy, Best Friends veterinarian.

One day, Piglet started having trouble breathing and was becoming lethargic. His foster volunteer rushed him to the emergency vet clinic. A CT scan revealed that he had persistent right aortic arch, a congenital condition that constricts the esophagus.

“Food could not travel to the stomach as it usually would,” says Dr. Megan. “He was in dire need of surgery to correct that.”

Best Friends was committed to providing anything Piglet needed to get well. So he underwent emergency open-chest surgery. Despite his age and size, he came through with flying colors. After being discharged, Piglet returned to his foster home to recover.

Standing tall

Piglet had a very specific post-surgery protocol. He needed to be fed in an upright position and remain upright for 30 minutes after eating — not an easy task. His foster volunteer found creative ways to elevate his food bowl, including placing it on a cardboard box or stack of books, to keep him standing nice and tall. Piglet also wore a little sweater to cover up and protect his sutures (which made this tuxedo kitten look extra dapper).

Several weeks after surgery, Piglet was finally able to start eating normally.

“We’re very happy that he survived, and we’re so glad we could get him the help that he needed,” says Dr. Megan.

When it came time for Best Friends to find Piglet a home, his foster volunteer just couldn’t say goodbye. Piglet was adopted and became an official member of the family, which includes an orange kitty named Starling. Piglet and Starling are the best of friends, just like Piglet and Pooh Bear.

Today, Piglet is happy, healthy, and as brave as ever. Although he’s already been through so much, his story is just beginning.

Let's make every shelter and every community no-kill by 2025

Our goal at Best Friends is to support all animal shelters in the U.S. in reaching no-kill by 2025. No-kill means saving every dog and cat in a shelter who can be saved, accounting for community safety and good quality of life for pets. 

Shelter staff can’t do it alone. Saving animals in shelters is everyone’s responsibility, and it takes support and participation from the community. No-kill is possible when we work together thoughtfully, honestly, and collaboratively.

Silhouette of two dogs, cat and kitten

You can help save homeless pets

You can help end the killing in shelters and save the lives of homeless pets when you foster, adopt, and advocate for the dogs and cats who need it most.

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