Tater Tot, rescue kitten with malformed paws who inspired internet, has died — rest in peace

A heartbreaking update to a recent story: Tater Tot, the rescued kitten whose story inspired people around the world, has died.

Tater Tot was first rescued in June. Born with malformed legs and a cleft palate, the kitten was in desperate need of help. The nonprofit Kitty CrusAIDe cared for him and co-founder Ash Houghton took him in as a foster.

But though they were hopeful that Tater Tot would make a recovery, Houghton announced yesterday that the kitten had “passed away suddenly.”

“His energy had been slowly decreasing over the last week or so, and we were hoping it was an illness that antibiotics could treat,” Houghton said in a statement. “He also started showing signs of pneumonia a few days ago, and I had started pneumonia protocol with meds and a nebulizer.”

She said she had brought up the possibility that Tater Tot had a heart condition, but he was too small to run tests on. She suspects an enlarged heart may have been responsible for his sudden passing: “One moment he was walking around and the next he was gone.”

“My heart is shattered,” she wrote. “This tiny tot was such a joy to care for, even on the days it was hard as hell. I definitely bonded with this guy in a way I’ve never bonded with a foster before. He has left his paw prints on my heart, and I hope he left some tiny ones on yours.”

According to a TikTok video, Tater Tot was first discovered by a Newfoundland dog named Bebe while exploring the area around her home. His four legs were malformed, with the front legs stuck at a downward 90-degree angle and the back legs “completely curly,” Houghton told Newsweek.

In addition, Tater Tot was also born with a cleft palate, which makes it difficult for him to latch onto a bottle, so he had to be tube fed.

Kitty CrusAIDe did everything they could to give this kitten a chance to thrive. He was given corrective splints for his front legs and fed through a tube. The rescue consulted medical professionals about a long term plan, but they had to wait until he was more fully grown.

In the meantime, Tater Tot’s story went viral online. He got his name from a naming contest that doubled as a fundraiser for his medical treatments, and his story inspired people everywhere.

“I’ve always shared my foster kittens online in various cat groups, but people seemed to really connect with this tiny little guy,” Houghton told Newsweek last month. “I knew he was cute, but I had no idea the world would take such a liking to him. We certainly were not prepared to go viral the way he has!”

“The world just loves an underdog, and this little guy has a lot of things working against him. A lot of people have said his fight and zest for life are really inspiring, and I know he has been a tiny inspiration for me.”

Even though Tater Tot could not overcome his health issues in the end, Houghton hopes that his story still continues to inspire his fans.

“I hope that his resilience during his short time here continues to inspire people,” Houghton wrote. “He was dealt a really tough hand with multiple health concerns, but he didn’t let that slow him down. He showed us that even if we have some struggles, there is always something to fight toward.”

“I want to thank every person here who has been in his corner cheering him on. It has been so beautiful to watch millions of people around the world unite over the life of one small little creature.”

How heartbreaking — rest in peace, sweet Tater Tot. Your story inspired us all 💔❤️

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