A struggling mama cat arrived at a New York City shelter with four kittens, all with oddly curled ears. At first, they suspected abuse but later, they learned it might be due to a rare feline disease.
Foster-based rescuers from Little Wanderers are always busy caring for cats struggling to survive in the Bronx and Manhattan areas of New York City. The rescuers have seen all kinds of situations in 25 years, but recently, they found a mama cat named Pinky who looked like a kitten herself. All four of her kittens had something unusual: all the kittens had curled ears that bent inward on the top. It’s cute but a bit of a mystery too!
Images and media via Instagram/littlewanderersnyc
Kittens with Curled Ears
On Facebook, they introduced the Mama Kitty and her babies with curled ears.
“Allow us to introduce Sgt. Pepper, Abbey Road, Doll’s House, and Revolver. The final photo is Mama Pinky who looks like a kitten herself and is sporting a possibly broken tail,” they shared on Facebook.
After a vet trip, they learned that the curled ears might have something to do with a rare disease called neonatal isoerythroylsis.
Sometimes, it can happen when people try to breed incompatible purebred cats with different blood types. A female with type B feline blood, more common in purebreds, mates with a tom with type A or AB.
To put it in simple terms, as the kittens feed on colostrum, the milk for the first 24 hours of life, antibodies from their mother can attack their blood cells. One of the many symptoms can be curled ears due to dying tissue. It can also cause tissue at the tip of the tail to die.
Other rescuers encountering neonatal isoerythroylsis have needed a veterinarian to blood test each kitten to determine compatibility with their mother’s blood type and antibodies.
Note: There are also cats with a mutation that causes folded ears, often associated with health concerns. Cats called American Curl cats have a gene that causes the ears to curl after a few days of life. As always, we strongly discourage getting a cat or kitten from a breeder, with so many cats needing homes in shelters everywhere.
Someone surrendered Mama Pinky and her 6-week-old kittens to NYC’s municipal shelter back in October. At the time, the rescuers suspected the kittens’ curled ears and damaged tails could be due to abuse. Later, they learned it may have been due to neonatal isoerythroylsis.
Fortunately, all survived, but Mama Pink, who was “rail thin to begin with,” became sick and needed further veterinary care. They learned she had developed Mastitis, an inflammation of the mammary glands. Therefore, they had to bottle-feed the babies while she recovered. Had the rescuers not pulled her from the shelter she may not have survived much longer.
Where are the Kittens Now?
An update shows the four cuties with curled ears in a wonderful foster home with a well-known journalist who is now “an official cat lady.” All of them are doing great and living the carefree life of adventure all kittens deserve.
For more, you can follow and support Little Wanderers NYC, a group of wonderful people doing all they can to save the “neediest cats in the toughest areas of NYC.” You can find them on Facebook and Instagram.