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First-time parents from Philadelphia had a baby girl Ivy in 2019. When she was 20 weeks pregnant, doctors informed new mom Caitlin that her daughter had a cleft lip and possibly palate. She says it was “scary and alienating” at first. But later, the couple learned it was common, and worries faded.

As Ivy grew, she had successful surgeries for the common birth defects. From the start, Ivy was obsessed with cats. She would make a meowing sound whenever she saw anything cat-related. Ivy loved the family cat, but Caitlin wondered if a kitten with boundless energy might be a better match for the energetic toddler.

Cute cat with cleft palate, Sgt. Pepper, Philadelphia

Sergeant Pepper, rescued by the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society (PAWS). Images via phillypaws.org

A Friend Sends Her the Story of Sergeant Pepper

Then one day, a friend shared the story of a cat named Sergeant Pepper she found on Instagram. Immediately, Caitlin had a feeling about this kitten. As a bonus, her husband would be won over with a Beatles-related name.

“I knew instantly that he belonged with our family. Pepper had been born with a cleft lip and palate just like our baby girl! My husband is also a huge Beatles fan, so with a name like Sergeant Pepper, I knew he could never say no,” she wrote.

Tiny kitten Sgt. Pepper and as an adult

Soon, the family virtually met Pepper’s foster mom and learned her daughter and the cat had so much in common.

“We discovered that he and Ivy had very similar background stories as snuggly, bottle-fed, food-sneezing babies who had successful palate repair surgeries. It just felt like fate,” she said.

Toddler with rescued cat with cleft palate

Images via petcolove.org

Ivy Would Never Be Alone

As Ivy grew up, her mother, a special education teacher, thought bonding with Pepper might inspire confidence. Ivy would never feel alone, even if she didn’t meet other people born with a cleft palate. 

“I know Ivy is still too young to understand now that she was born differently, and I will always teach and encourage her to embrace her differences. However, I know it will be important for her someday to know she is not alone. Pepper has reassured us that Ivy never needs to feel alone in her journey. She might never have a classmate, teammate, or friend who was also born with a cleft, but she will have Pepper. I hope that their bond inspires confidence within her to be proud of exactly who she is.”

Ivy and Sergeant Pepper

Image via Facebook

Meanwhile, Pepper was offering affection and amusing moments to the whole family. When Caitlin taught classes online due to the pandemic, the kitten also entertained students with his loud purring.

“Pepper has stolen our laps and our hearts!” she shared with the rescuers.

Ivy and Sergeant Pepper

Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society 

Caitlyn found Sergeant Pepper, thanks to a Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) post. After being rescued along with his siblings, Pepper stayed with the perfect foster mom, Kate, a speech therapist who works with children with cleft palates.

Ivy and kitten, cleft palate

When Pepper required expensive surgery from a specialist, PAWS started a fundraiser. Due to the pandemic, they had tempered expectations, but the community donated more than enough within hours. 

Even better, when Caitlyn submitted the story of Ivy and Pepper to the 2021 Petco Love Stories contest, the story won an astonishing $25K grant for PAWS.

Ivy and Sergeant Pepper win an award for the rescuers

Image via Facebook

It really does seem like fate that Sergeant Pepper found his way to Ivy, and their wonderful story helped the rescuers that made it possible in an incredible way.

Video by Petco Love:

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