Kitten Survives Frostbite and Inspires Pet Parents With His Resiliency

Ryan and Lindsey were not planning to add a kitten to their family, but Clem’s love and determination would become the healing his pet parents needed most.

Ryan + Clem

When Ryan and Lindsey adopted Clem, they knew he’d need extra love and care to recover from his surgeries after frostbite. But Clem turned out to be a healing force for them as well, inspiring his family with his resiliency and unconditional love.

"In those first few weeks, we realized how resilient, strong-willed, and determined our little Clem was. It became a repeated mantra: “If Clem can get through it, so can we.” Little did we know how much this mantra would soon mean to us."

Clem was not the new family member we were expecting. About six months before adopting Clem, we had reached an armistice between our cats, Kip and Millie, after two long years of work. Lindsey always asked about adopting other cats, but I always shot that down, not wanting to cause further problems. 

One night I was scrolling through Facebook when something caught my eye. A colleague of mine posted about a 5-month-old kitten for whom she’d removed the right front limb, the back left limb at the ankle, most of the tail, one toe on the remaining front foot, and two toes on the remaining back foot due to frostbite. Lindsey immediately asked if we could get him. I paused for a moment too long while deciding, and in the end agreed that I would reach out about fostering to adopt. 

We immediately fell in love and craved photos and updates. A few (long) weeks later, we brought home little Clem after a third surgery, not knowing if there would be more surgeries, and not knowing how this little guy would do long-term. Would he ever run well or be able to jump? Would he need a wheelchair? Would he have the opportunity to enjoy being a kitten? Within a few short days, he was blowing our expectations out of the water: running around playing, jumping onto the cat tree, it was truly remarkable. In those first few weeks, we realized how resilient, strong-willed, and determined our little Clem was. It became a repeated mantra: “If Clem can get through it, so can we.” Little did we know how much this mantra would soon mean to us.

Clem quickly fit in with our other cats (well, Kip likes having a brother; Millie allows him to live under her roof). On Mother’s Day, we found out we were expecting our first child, after months of disappointment. Even more exciting, our first OB appointment was scheduled for Lindsey’s birthday. We were ecstatic about having our family grow. Little did we know how much little Clem would mean to us in what followed. We discovered we were miscarrying on Lindsey’s birthday, and that Lindsey had a cyst on her ovary that required surgery. As devastated as we were with the news, it became evident that Clem was the (fur) baby we were meant to have at the time. 

He may not be the biggest cuddler, but he spent hours with Lindsey while she recovered, helping her feel better in the dark days, and helping us remember that we still had a little baby that needed us. All the while we kept telling ourselves, “If Clem can get through it, so can we.” In the end, it turns out, Clem was the new family member we needed at this point in our lives. Currently, he is the fastest cat we own, and a little wild man who we adore.

Each year, Petco Love Stories invites adopters to share how their pets have changed their lives to give the organizations that they’ve adopted from the chance to receive grant awards. This story by Ryan won Whiskers TNR of Warren County in Martensdale, Iowa a 2021 Love Stories award.