Operation: Save Mila

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The family of an airman set to deploy to Afghanistan adopted the injured kitten he saved from a military vehicle engine.

Senior Airman James Hemlick and his wife Kat added seriously injured kitty Mila to their family when James rescued her after she became seriously injured in a military vehicle at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina late last month. The couple put out an appeal for help with Mila’s vet bills, and have made good progress toward reaching their goal.

We’re sharing the story to highlight the good heartedness of a military man and his family, and to introduce little Mila, who is recovering from injury and learning to feel the comfort and security of family life in her new home.

Here is Mila’s story as told by Kat Hemlick.

Hello, my name is Katharina and this is my story about Mila, the 8 week old kitten who was caught in the engine blades of a large military vehicle. On June 26th, 2012 my husband called me at home from his work. My husband is active duty U.S. Air Force and upon entering work for the day, his supervisor had noted strange sounds from their vehicle. They conducted a search but found nothing and continued on with their work for the day.

Unfortunately a small kitten was literally stuck inside of the engine and was caught by the fan blades. She had spent over an hour inside of the engine and was in terrible condition once she was spit out. She had a large bleeding head wound, the tip of her nose had been severed, her eyes were dilated and out of focus, labored breathing, fur matted with blood, and worst of all she could only drag herself with her front legs. Her back legs didn’t seem to work at all.

They had deduced that she had tried to escape the extreme southern heat to get a drink from a tiny water leak in their vehicle. My husband quickly swept her into his arms and had me call the emergency vet. He picked me up on the way there and the poor little baby was worse for wear. By that point she was in extreme shock and had yet to make any movements aside from struggling to breathe. After more than an hour trip, to the emergency vet, we played the waiting game.

After 8 hrs in the waiting room we were taken to the examination room and given the full extent of our brave little girls injuries. Her head wound had caused severe brain swelling, her right eye was lacerated throwing off her depth perception permanently, her nose would need stitches and as for her legs; her left back leg was fine….but her right leg had been mangled beyond repair. We were told she would need an amputation surgery to permanently remove it or she would drag it uselessly for the rest of her life. They kept Mila overnight for stabilization and when we picked her up the next day we had paid a jaw dropping $1,703.


We took her directly to our primary vet and regretfully had him amputate the leg. After paying another $525 for the amputation we had ourselves another member to the family. After a week and a half of rehibilitation she’s getting along without her back leg just fine. She hops around the house, plays with our other cat, and is getting used to having large dogs in the family. I think she’s just happy to be fed twice a day and to be cuddled and loved whenever she feels like it. I’ve never heard a cat purr so loud as soon as you touch her!

I wouldn’t hesitate to help this little cat again but sadly all those medical expenses have put a big toll on our pocketbook. With my husband deploying to Afghanistan at the end of the year, we’re trying our best to pay off these vet bills before he leaves.

Even if you can’t donate, please share Mila’s story and let others know about our brave little cat who soldiered on against the odds. Thank you to everyone who has donated or even shared her story!!! It’s amazing at how many people are willing to help out and who care!

Little Mila is doing great. Here she is hanging out with her brother Moriarty in their kitty castle. Madeline our great dane lab mix is all about covering Mila in kisses but she’s still a skeptical about their relationship. Mila gets her stitches out on Saturday. I’ll be sure to take some pictures but as far as I can tell it’s healing up beautifully.

Mila and Meeka sitting on Kat’s lap. Mila does so great with Meeka probably because they’re about the same size. Meeka the jack russle mix loves giving Mila a bath. They wrestle all the time and Meeka chases Mila up the stairs. Mila surprisingly bolts up the stairs with no problems. It’s actually pretty amazing at how much stronger her back leg is and how much her balance has improved. No more awkward hopping!! She’s as graceful and lithe as any other cat.

Little Mila is staying strong and walking around on 3 legs with more grace every day. Mila had to get some more liquid stitches put into her nose again this week because the old ones fell out. Her nose is healing, but it’s slow because the engine blade cut in so deep. Our vet said her amputee stitches are healing wonderfully and they’ll be out this weekend. Her head wound has also healed up pretty well. There isn’t any more scabbing but the fur hasn’t even started growing back yet like it has on her front leg and her hind quarters where they removed the back leg. It makes me wonder if she’ll have a bald spot.

Mila has been following our 8 month old tabby cat, Moriarty around the house. Mori has taken quite a liking to her as well. Our dogs keep trying to cuddle up to her like they do with Mori but she’s still a little scared. She doesn’t seem to mind our 4 lb dog Meeka but that’s probably because they’re the same size and honestly, Meeka is more worried about sitting on your lab than anything else. More updates to come!

Thank you again everyone. We are so grateful for all of your help!!!


Mila the Three Legged Kitten


Mila and Moriarty


Indegogo Operation: Save Mila widget. Click on Mila’s photo to go to the page.

2 thoughts on “Operation: Save Mila”

  1. Gorgeous kitty!! Will you post some video when she gets her cone off for the first time? It’ll be a whole nother world for her.

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