I met Joe and Lauren DiPaolo and cat Mac at Cat Camp this year. Everywhere the leashed kitty went, crowds followed. That’s nothing new for one of the specially abled DiPaolo felines, as their Instagram account @littleman_mika has more than 142k followers. The DiPaolos are advocates for special-needs cats and use @littleman_mika to raise awareness.
Their current crew of cats includes Little Man, who has cerebellar hypoplasia; Mika, who has microphthalmia in both eyes; Mac — featured on Jackson Galaxy’s Animal Planet segment “My Cat from Heaven” — has cardiomyopathy, megaesophagus, eye herpes, a cleft palate and half a nostril; Leela has microphthalmia in one eye; YoYo — the blind baby — has microphthalmia; and Selita, who is missing her two back legs and most of her tail.
Born into a family of non-cat people, 6-year-old Lauren persuaded them to let her start rescuing cats. “At age 15, I crossed paths with two special-needs cats that needed homes,” Lauren explains. “I couldn’t believe how quickly people felt that they had no quality of life or should be euthanized just because of a missing leg, deafness or a heart murmur.”
Adopting both cats, from that day forward her mission to prove that “different” is OK became top priority. Lauren says husband Joe — who wasn’t a cat person when they met — is now the ultimate Cat Dad.
Lauren, Joe and their cats have done cat-centric shows like Cat Camp and Kittydelphia to TV shows like Good Morning America, Dr. Oz and Fox & Friends. And, they have high hopes for the future. “Joe and I love seeing how the views on special-needs pets have changed,” says Lauren, “and hope to one day be able to open our own special-needs rescue.”
Editor’s note: This article appeared in Catster magazine. Have you seen the new Catster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? Subscribe now to get Catster magazine delivered straight to you!