The Story of Merlin, the deformed Kitten…. | Pet Photography

If you haven’t followed along, in May of 2014, my daughter, Erynn, and I welcomed our brand new foal, Pixie (see Pixie’s Story and picture here).  While waiting for the foal, we had spent the night at the barn.  The one morning, feeding was taking place when two tiny newborn kittens were found in the mud.  Knowing they were most likely from a feral barn cat, I went back out to see if there were any more or signs of the mom.  About 80 horse hooves were stomping around in the mud getting their food, I ducked down when I heard a tiny mew and looked under one of the troughs.  In a 3-inch high space, I saw movement.  I reached in and pulled out three more kittens.

orphan kittensErynn and I immediately went to work – seeing umbilical cords still attached, we ran some warm water, cleaned the mud off of the kittens, and wrapped them up in dry towels.  We looked around for the mom, and frankly, any barn cat that leaves her babies in the middle of that many hooves is probably not actively seeking out her babies.  Regardless, we started feeding with droppers and kept them warm, and figured we may as well raise them ourselves.  There were no other barn cats around that were nursing babies or we would have slipped them in with another mother.

Five beautiful little furry creatures.

Raising kittens is incredibly difficult especially when they are this young.  One night was especially difficult, not knowing exactly why they were screaming so loud.  Erynn made it her personal mission to stay home from school the next day and figure out how to take care of these babies and make them happy.  She was simply amazing.  She developed her own bottle feeding techniques, schedule – was up at night, early in the morning, and going to school while taking care of these orphans.

Unfortunately, two of the little ones passed.  This is very common when nursing kittens this young and were reassured by the vet that Erynn was doing everything anyone would do to care for these kittens, and she was doing nothing wrong.  Our vet, Dr. Brockett at Madonna Vet, is great (  We had to focus on the three that were thriving.  We had absolutely no plans of keeping any of these kittens.  We have plenty of animals and really do not need any more.

Of the three, we watched the little orange boy unable to keep up with his siblings.  The other two began to walk, but to our complete horror, Orange Boy was dragging his entire hind end.  He would hoist himself up on his front legs and drag the back.  Horrible.

spine deformity catWe took him back to the vet.  Dr. B was very happy with the progress of the other two, but Orange Boy was a major problem.  He knew these were “rescues” but he wanted to know what was wrong.  He asked if he could X-ray just for knowledge.  What was shown made our hearts sink.  His spine was completely bent.  Here’s the reverse x-ray so you can see his spine clearly.  Dr. B said that his recommendation was to put him down; however, he was not in pain, and if we decided to keep him, Dr. B would be more than willing to follow him.  The vet also said that he appeared like there was something possibly mentally not right with him either.

Erynn and I talked realistically.  If we could get this little boy to walk on his own, and he could use the litterbox, we would keep him.  If not, we would have to put him down.  Realistically, we have a three level house, quite a few pets, and we all live busy lives.  We could not take care of a severely crippled animal.

deformed kittenWhat were we going to do with this little face?  :/

Erynn began the rehabbing process…. First, he received a name – Merlin.  She started doing water therapy with little Merlin.  He could move his back legs, but he didn’t know how to get them under him.  She would hold them under him and he would put pressure on her hand.  Here is a water therapy session…

We did not take videos of his dragging his legs because it was so horrible to watch and made me want to cry every time I saw it.  I really thought he had no future, and I didn’t want to remember that terrible scene.

Hungry Kitten Video….


Pretty soon, Merlin was walking.  It wasn’t pretty, but he was getting around and using the litterbox. Watch him interact with his mommy….

And when he was finally playing a little….


He was the last one to wean and was significantly smaller than his siblings.  We had a little photoshoot right before his siblings found their new homes.   You can definitely see that Merlin was not like the other kittens.  He was way behind their development, and he always looked sickly.

orphan kittens 1


Merlin is now almost 10 months old.  He cannot walk a straight line, he’s still smaller than the average cat, he sits funny, he cannot clean his behind, but he is a loving and happy cat.   He climbs up everything with his claws and jumps down from beds and does a bit of a handstand on the floor, then brings his back legs down (I must capture that one day).  You can tell there’s something wrong with him, but for the most part, he’s doing great.

(These are images that Erynn took from her phone…She always gets the best shots because he’s always with her.)  Erynn is truly Merlin’s “mommy”.  She is the only one that can pick him up, flip  him over, clean his ears out, clean his eyes, and he just lies there like okay, Mommy is taking care of me now.  It’s really cool to watch.


merlin1 merlin-deformed-cat




And he still gets his baths….. (and sorry for the baby talk)…


Merlin has really come a long way…


We have plenty more videos of Merlin’s early progress – if you’d like to see them, check them out on Erynn’s You Tube Channel HERE.  Erynn plans to become a regular “bottlefeeder” for orphan kittens this spring… We’ll be sharing for sure!

About Jodie Otte

Maryland Newborn Photographer and Child Portrait Artist, Jodie Holstein-Otte, specializes in unique photography of newborn babies, kids, and families. She works on location in Harford, Howard, Cecil, Anne Arundel, Baltimore and other areas throughout Maryland. She uses both both natural lighting and soft studio lighting techniques.

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