Adopted Kittens Help Grieving Family Find Hope Again

After losing a parent and the family dog, one little boy’s birthday gift to his brother changed everything.

every gift saves lives

every gift saves lives

Joya + Mia & Sophia

2017: Birthday. Tears. Death. Life. Love. Sigh.

In January, I canceled my son’s tenth birthday while my husband was lying in a hospital bed. In February, my two sons and I held each other as we sent their beloved papa to Heaven. In March, we said goodbye to our dog as she followed her owner to Heaven. We were now a family of three.

"My son, with a kitten cradled in his arms, looked at me with a sparkle in his eyes—a sparkle I hadn’t seen in months."

After that, I knew I wasn’t ready for the commitment of caring for a pet again. But then in May, my neighbor introduced my older son to two kittens she was fostering from Anderson Animal Shelter. My son, with a kitten cradled in his arms, looked at me with a sparkle in his eyes—a sparkle I hadn’t seen in months—and declared these two kittens would make the best birthday gift for his brother.

Again, I knew I was not up to the task of owning a pet. I could barely take care of my human kids. Besides, I had never owned a cat before. But he knew his younger brother was a complete animal lover. My younger son loved our dog, but he really wanted a puppy to nurture. By the time he was born, our dog was beginning her senior years. Knowing that her days were coming to an end, my younger son had asked for a dog, a cat, a bird, a lizard, a fish—anything alive that would benefit from his love and care. So, like a good mom, I tried to persuade my older son that a trampoline would make a better gift. He looked up at me, the sparkle in his eyes brighter than ever, and offered to give me some of his birthday money to get the kittens for his brother.

It was then that I knew we would become a family of five. And that we did. We managed to keep the secret while we made all the necessary preparations for the kittens to come home. And they made quite an entrance. My mom and sisters were there to celebrate as my son and I presented the two most precious kittens to a seven-year-old who had lost the sparkle in his eyes. A seven year old who was so in awe of what his mama and brother had done, that he didn’t know what to say.

My seven year old now has a sparkle in eyes that rivals his older brother’s. It was then that I knew I had made the right decision. Even after the kittens had a virus, diarrhea, and needed three different medicines, my children were eager to help with their care. Together, we learned to give them medicine, bathed them, figured out what food they like, and snuggled with them as much as possible.

There will never be a replacement for a beloved papa, or a boy’s first dog. However, with the blessings of an amazing neighbor, my kids have found that they can feel joy again. And I have, too.

Each year, the Petco Foundation invites adopters to share the story of how their adopted pet changed their lives during the annual Holiday Wishes campaign, giving the organization that they adopted from a chance to receive a grant award. This story by Joya Morales won Anderson Animal Shelter in Illinois a 2017 Holiday Wishes award.