Tater Tot, the tiny orange kitten who stole the hearts of many and racked up thousands of fans online, died on August 2 following a brief illness.
His passing was announced on Wednesday evening in a Facebook group called “Tater Tot and His Spudbuds.” Nearly 44,000 people had been following the antics of the small kitten with malformed legs, wild fur and an ever-present scowl.
“I’m honestly not sure how to start this post, but here it goes,” wrote Ash Houghton, Tater Tot’s foster mother, to the group.
Houghton is a co-director of Kitty CrusAIDe, a Salt Lake City-based cat rescue.
“Today, our tiny spud passed away suddenly in my hands,” she wrote.
“His energy had been slowly decreasing over the last week or so, and we were hoping it was an illness that antibiotics could treat. He also started showing signs of pneumonia a few days ago, and I had started pneumonia protocol with meds and a nebulizer.”
Tater Tot was too small to have any tests done on his heart, she said — but due to the speed of his passing, Houghton believes Tater Tot had an enlarged heart.
“One moment he was walking around and the next he was gone,” she wrote.
“This tiny little potato has had such a profound impact on my heart, and I am so unbelievably happy I got to share him with the entire world,” Houghton also wrote.
“What started as me sharing some photos of the goofy new foster I had turned into an entire community focused on kindness, humor and compassion,” she said, adding that she was “astounded” at how many people were following news about her kitten.
In addition to the thousands of people in Facebook groups and on TikTok, Tater Tot had inspired fan art, fundraisers — and at least two tattoos.
“I cannot express to you just how incredible it has been to see how he has impacted the world,” she added.
During his short life of just a few weeks, Tater Tot “was dealt a really tough hand with multiple health concerns, but he didn’t let that slow him down,” noted Houghton.
In addition to his malformed legs — which veterinarians were in the process of correcting with splints, or “bonkers,” as they were dubbed — Tater Tot also had a cleft palate.
He also had to be fed via tube.
Tater Tot “showed us that even if we have some struggles, there is always something to fight toward,” she said.
Houghton thanked all those who were following Tater Tot’s health journey, saying it “has been so beautiful to watch millions of people around the world unite over the life of one small little creature.”
“My heart is shattered,” said Houghton.
She said that Tater Tot “was such a joy to care for, even on the days it was hard as hell.”
She wrote, “Tube feeding a kitten every day for 6 and a half weeks is no easy task, and 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 paw prints on yours.”
Houghton said she would be keeping the Facebook group active in his honor.
She also said she hopes Tater Tot will “live on in the stories of other creatures who are built just a little different from others.”
Houghton requested that those who have been touched by Tater Tot’s story make a donation to their local animal shelter in his honor.
“Thank you for being a part of Tater Tot’s journey, and for having such a profound impact on me and our rescue,” she said.
“We never anticipated we would build a whole community — but my goodness, I am glad we did.”