During the middle of a torrential rainstorm two years ago, Kathryn van Beek spotted a tiny, soaking wet animal crawling along the road in Auckland, New Zealand.
He was so small, in fact, that she almost missed him completely.
“I wasn’t even sure he was a cat,” van Beek told The Dodo. “He looked much more like a mouse.”
Sure enough, as van Beek rushed over, she noticed that it was a newborn kitten — and he looked to be only a few hours old. His mom was nowhere to be found, so she scooped up the wet kitten and took him home right away.
She soon named him Bruce.
“At first, I thought his chances of survival were pretty good,” van Beek said. “But over the next few days, he got sicker and sicker. As I researched newborn kitten care, I realized that a lot of kittens in Bruce’s situation don’t make it.”
Although the odds were stacked against little Bruce, van Beek was going to do everything she could to help him win the fight for his life. She started around-the-clock formula feedings — and while at work, made sure he always had a trained babysitter on hand to keep watch on him.
“I’d pack him up with a giant ‘mom bag,’ drop him off before work and pick him up afterwards,” van Beek said. “The round-the-clock feeds were a challenge.”
After six weeks of many vet appointments and constant feedings, Bruce finally rounded the corner to recovery — and his fur started changing from gray to black.
He had had a condition called “fever coat,” which happens to kittens born to a stressed or sick mother cat. It causes parts of the fur to turn gray, cream or red but eventually fades away over time.
“By the time he was 3 months, his coat had turned completely black,” van Beek said. “He was prancing around like a mad teenager. That’s when I really knew he was out of the woods!”
Now just over 2 years old, Bruce still has that same feistiness that helped him survive as a baby. He loves play-fighting with his big sister, Jager, and prowling around outdoors with his mom.
Bruce has even inspired van Beek to write a children’s book about him, which was recently released at bookstores in New Zealand.
“He’s very frisky and a very independent, free spirit,” van Beek said. “We often joke that you can take the cat off the streets, but you can’t take the street out of the cat.”
Although he marches to his own drum sometimes, Bruce makes sure to always show his mom how thankful he is to have her.
And she makes sure to do the same.
“He really gives me that bursting heart feeling when I look at him,” van Beek said. “I feel so proud of everything he’s overcome. We’re lucky to have found one another.”