Editor’s note: Have you seen the new Catster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting area of your vet’s office? This article appeared in our November/December 2016 issue. Click here to subscribe to Catster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home.
The moment Natalie Giles saw Mr. Magoo, she knew the tiny black kitten with the funny face would become the newest member of her family.
Found living under someone’s deck with his mom and littermates, Mr. Magoo wound up at the vet clinic where Natalie works as a registered veterinary technician in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada. She spends her days caring for sick and injured pets, but Magoo stood out right away.
“When I first saw him, he was so small (compared to his sibling), and his little tongue was out,” Natalie said. “Right then and there I knew he was mine. I adopted Magoo the minute he came into the clinic.”
Much like quintessential celebrikitty Lil BUB, whose adorably cartoonish face emblazons merchandise such as T-shirts and tote bags, Magoo’s tongue makes him instantly recognizable. Standing out like a smear of bubblegum on Magoo’s dark fur, the cat’s perpetually exposed pink tongue has become his defining characteristic on Facebook and Instagram, where he has gained thousands of followers. But his unique look isn’t without its drawbacks.
Natalie said Magoo was born with an underdeveloped jaw that also veers off to one side, which is what causes his tongue to hang out. His skull is also slightly deformed. As Magoo got older, Natalie considered surgery to make the cat more comfortable and help with eating and breathing, but vets were unable to perform the procedure, with Magoo’s jaw deformity leaving them unable to properly anesthetize him.
The good news: Natalie reported that the kitty is “totally healthy otherwise,” so she and now 3-year-old Magoo have learned to live with his disability. When it comes to day-to-day care, this mostly involves keeping an eye on Magoo to avoid choking hazards and helping him eat.
“He can [eat] on his own, but most of the food usually ends up all over the place other than his mouth,” Natalie said. “He is getting smarter and will use his paw to bring food up to his mouth. Another thing I worry about is hairballs. I’ve had to help him out a few times, but that never happens anymore (thank goodness)!”
Natalie also has three dogs — Brixton, Carlton, and Henry — as well as another cat named Molly. Magoo is well-loved by all of his furry siblings, but stray pieces of kibble present another potential choking hazard for the kitty, who only eats canned food.
“We have had that happen once before, and it was terrifying,” Natalie said.
Fortunately, Magoo accompanies Natalie to work every day at Westwood Heights Pet Hospital, where she said the kitty is “an amazing coworker” who loves to greet clients and their pets. Instead of scrubs or business-casual attire, Magoo arrives at the office wearing colorful bandanas and bow ties — and even the occasional party hat. Magoo’s wide, sleepy eyes and friendly personality provide a bit of levity to the workweek.
“I have never in my life had a cat like Magoo,” Natalie said. “He is so loving and goofy, not only with humans but with all other kinds of animals, too. He just wants to show love and be loved. He makes me smile and laugh every day.”
Because Magoo has been such a positive influence in her life, Natalie encourages others to adopt special-needs pets. Because of potential adopters’ concerns about expenses and additional care, many cats with disabilities get overlooked in shelters, but Natalie said the rewards vastly outweigh the risks.
“[Magoo] has changed my life in so many positive ways, and I can’t imagine my life without him,” she said. “More people need to consider adopting a less-adoptable because that pet [family member] will show you what unconditional love is, and that’s something money can’t buy.”
Additionally, when Natalie first adopted Magoo, she thought she was helping him out — she was a registered veterinary technician caring for a special-needs kitten, after all. Three years later, she’s discovered the true benefits of their relationship are actually the other way around.
“The most rewarding thing about Magoo is the constant love he shows me every day,” she said. “It’s like he knows we need each other. I also thought when we first met that he needed me, but when it came down to it I was the one who needed him.”
About the author: Angela Lutz is a writer living in Kansas City, Missouri. This not-crazy-at-all cat lady loves to lint-roll her favorite dress and go out dancing. She also frequents the gym, the vegan coffee joint, and the warm patch of sunlight on the living room floor. She enjoys a good cat-rescue story about kindness and decency overcoming the odds, and she’s an enthusiastic recipient of head-butts and purrs from her two cats, Bubba Lee Kinsey and Phoenix. Follow Angela on Twitter.