Cat’s Adventurous Spirit is the Best Remedy

Whether skateboarding or hiking together, Mr. Mittens helps Sydney live life without limits.

Sydney + Mr. Mittens

Even as a tiny kitten, Mr. Mittens seemed to know how to relieve 12-year-old Sydney’s pain. Today, Mr. Mittens’ unconditional love and sense of adventure help Sydney live life to its fullest.

"From the moment he crawled inside my shirt for warmth, I knew it was love. Little did I know, when I thought I was saving him he was actually saving me. As we spent more time together, I realized that when I held Mr. Mittens or he jumped on my shoulder, it helped relieve my pain."

September 21, 2019 was like any average day for me — get up, get ready, and go volunteer. But little did I know today would be the day that would change my life forever and fill a void in my heart that I never knew existed. Just because I’m only 12 years old, people always assume that I don’t know how I feel. No matter how many times I tell them my back hurts, my ankles hurt, my legs ache, I’m getting dizzy, I think I’m going to pass out, they say, “Oh you must have an eating disorder, it’s ‘just’ anxiety or it’s just growing pains: suck it up.” Eventually, after years of searching, I would be able to tell them, “No, you’re wrong! I have POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome) and a connective tissue disorder.” 

I never had to explain this to Mr. Mittens because he always just knew. From the time his four ounce, 10-day-old body curled up in the palm of my hand as he looked at me with his glowing sapphire eyes, he would know exactly where to lie to relieve my pain. Mittens was a bottle-fed baby, found all alone in the pouring rain at 3 days old. Even though I’m young, the Director of the Ferndale Cat Shelter took a chance and allowed me to foster him. Maybe she knew he was a fighter and I would be determined. I shared the foster responsibility for the first three weeks, and then Mr. Mittens came back to me forever. 

From the moment he crawled inside my shirt for warmth, I knew it was love. Little did I know, when I thought I was saving him he was actually saving me. As we spent more time together, I realized that when I held Mr. Mittens or he jumped on my shoulder, it helped relieve my pain. I’m an only child so I have never known what it feels like to have a sibling, but I always considered Mr. Mittens to be like a brother to me. 

When I adopted Mr. Mittens, one of my goals was to give him the best quality of life and teach him things people don’t believe cats can do. Even when he was just figuring out how to walk, I leash trained him. We have accomplished what some would say is impossible: swimming in a life vest and riding a skateboard. Whenever I am teaching him something new or going someplace with him, I feel like we are bringing out the best in each other. We love hiking which helps me to feel good and he sits at the door with his leash, just waiting and hoping it’s time. Even though he is a cat, I feel like when I’m going on an adventure with him, I have no limits. I can do whatever I want to and just forget about my pain. I have always felt a bond to animals but with Mr. Mittens, I feel an unconditional love that will never be broken.

Each year, the Petco Foundation Holiday Wishes campaign invites adopters to share stories of 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 Sydney won Ferndale Cat Shelter in Ferndale, Michigan a 2020 Holiday Wishes award.