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It all started with this orange tabby. Photographer Casey Christopher met the feline who was surrendered to a Los Angeles animal shelter in April after his owner died.
"[Regis] had glaucoma really bad and his eyes were huge and cloudy," Christopher tells PEOPLE. As it turns out, this guy was one of the lucky ones. Best Friends Los Angeles took him in and gave him the care he needed, which was eye removal surgery. After that, he was taken to Milo's Sanctuary, a place offering lifetime homes to special needs kitties in Burbank, California.
"I'd noticed an increase in the number of blind and one-eyed cats and kittens at the shelter and rescues where I volunteer," Christopher says, "and that encouraged me to finally contact Milo's and make this photo series."
Christopher shared with PEOPLE some of her most adorable subjects, whose resilience should inspire us all.
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This scruffy former community cat faced the unimaginable: battery acid was thrown on his face. He lost an eye in the ordeal and had reconstructive surgery to repair the damage of severe burns. "I've seen very graphic pictures of this poor baby and all he endured and it's amazing to see him now," she adds. "He's a happy, friendly cat. He isn't afraid of people at all." To help Milo's Sanctuary with Thomas's hefty medical bills — he still has one more surgery to go — click here.
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Described by Milo's Sanctuary as "one of the sweetest, gentle, and funniest cats we've ever rescued," this guy, who is a member of the lifetime care program, is living proof that disabilities don't have to sideline you. This handsome boy, who has some sight in his right eye, "can often be found playing in the water fountains or carrying a toy around the house, looking for someone to play with," his bio says.
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No eyes? No problem for this kitten, a former street cat, who Christopher says has a big personality. "[Phoenix] is the perfect example of a special needs cat functioning just fine," she adds.
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He could've been called Lucky. This feline was rescued the day he was to be euthanized at a high kill L.A. shelter in 2011 — he and some other kitties arrived there after a raid on a hoarder. Once a "skinny, matted and dirty mess," according to Milo's website, he's now "blossomed into a happy, healthy and energetic boy."
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This pretty girl was born blind with deformed eyelids and "the worst entropion (the eyelashes growing into the eyes) the vets had ever seen," the sanctuary's website says. Neglect caused her eyes to became infected and the sanctuary is still in disbelief that "this cat stayed alive without a brain infection." Maybe all of this made her stronger, since nowadays "Pixie is a sweet girl who loves to play and roughhouse with the other cats, holding her own against any of the boys," her bio says.
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