A tiny orange kitten with special needs named Tater Tot is getting attention online from people who seem to love the cat.
Tater Tot’s foster mom, Ash Houghton, told Fox News Digital that she’s surprised at how popular they’ve become, and that she hopes people will be more open to adopting pets with disabilities.
“One of our volunteers arrived after her neighbor’s dog brought home a Tater Tot,” Houghton said of the day the Tater Tot was rescued. “Almost as if to say, ‘Mom, he needs help.’
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Houghton said she has been fostering kittens for about two years and is one of the co-directors of Kitty Cross Aid, a Salt Lake City-based cat rescue where Tater Tot is being cared for.
Houghton said the tater tot was a day or two old when it was found. He had a littermate who did not survive.
“Tater Tot was already really small, and the sibling was about half the size of Spud,” Houghton said.
He continued, “He was born with the shape of all four legs. The front ones were sitting with a sharp 90-degree bend at the wrist, and his hind legs are completely curled.”
“Right now, we’re just focused on making it bigger and stronger.”
Houghton said he and his doctors hope the “bonkers” — his word for his splint — will be enough to prevent further leg surgery.
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Additionally, Tater Tot has a cleft palate, which means he has to be tube fed to prevent aspiration.
It also means he won’t be up for adoption for a long time due to his health.
“We’re still learning what all his needs will be as he grows, and he won’t be ready for a cleft palate repair surgery for nine months to a year, but that surgery has a high failure rate and often requires multiple procedures to fix it,” Houghton explained.
“Right now, we’re just focusing on making it bigger and stronger,” he added.
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Houghton said she often shares fosters in online cat groups, but little Tater Tot “just blew up.”
“It’s honestly been really crazy,” she said.
The Facebook group where Tater Tot rose to stardom titled, “THIS CAT IS GROMPY,” received more than 12,000 new members in less than a week, the group’s administrator posted. It now has over 283,000 members.
A separate group, “Tater Tot and His Speed Buds,” has 21,000 members.
On TikTok, Tater Tot videos posted on the Kitty CrusAIDe account are garnering millions of views.
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Tater Tot has also inspired fan art and other tributes, including flash designs for tattoos.
And while people may like Tater Tot for his “grumpy” expression, Houghton said he’s not as grumpy as he looks and believes that’s another reason the kitten is so popular.
“I think people love an underdog, and this spud has a lot of things working against him, but his passion and fight for life is so inspiring,” Houghton said. “I know it has affected me!”
The Kitty Crusade is run entirely on donations, Houghton said, and “every dollar helps.”
Donations can be made through the rescue’s website, Houghton added, and will “help us continue to care for all cats in and out of our homes.”
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Houghton encourages people not to be put off by adopting a cat with special needs or a disability.
“Don’t be afraid,” she said. “It’s a lot of work, but watching them grow and hit milestones is so rewarding.”
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“Animals with disabilities or special needs have a hard time finding forever homes, but if you’re willing to put in the time and energy, it’s incredibly worth it,” she added.