Coffee was shy of one million Instagram followers once he got his diagnosis

By mariayagoda
Updated August 02, 2016 02:14 PM

Coffee, an Instagram-famous cat with over one million followers, seemed perfectly healthy when his owner, Pookie, was brushing him – until she felt a lump on his side.

She started touching him everywhere, and soon felt a symmetrical lump on his other side. She looked online and realized those lumps were his kidneys.

“It felt like a hard mass,” she tells PEOPLE exclusively of her cat’s lymphoma, which is officially in remission. “They very next morning, I took him to the vet.” Specialists determined that Coffee had a mass sitting between his kidneys, which had grown to be three times the size of normal ones. If they’d caught it a week later, he could have gone through kidney failure.

Coffee started show the symptoms of lymphoma two days after his diagnosis.

“He started to become lethargic. He would just lie down on the cold tile. He wasn’t playful, and he didn’t have an appetite. He was always so thirsty.”

The cat, who was just shy of one million followers when he got the official April 2nd diagnosis, wasn’t acting like himself. His owners debated whether to go public with the news and ultimately decided that they could use the support.

“The reaction was overwhelming. It was what we needed. Every post we made, we read all the comments – every single one. Sometimes they were in the thousands,” Pookie tells PEOPLE. “One kid had taped a dollar to an envelope and said, this is all I can give, but it’s for White Coffee Cat’s treatment. We feel like he’s everyone’s cat – we’re just lucky that we get to live with him.”

The treatments, however, were taxing, and made Coffee very sick.

“He wouldn’t come near us; he would find a corner or a chair,” she says. “He was very sleepy all the time.”

But by the third week, he seemed less tired and started drinking less water. Slowly but surely, he regained his spunk, and as of two weeks ago, Pookie and Coffee’s whole family found out that the cat is in remission, which is incredibly rare for cats with lymphoma.

Speaking to PEOPLE is the first time they’ve come forward with the news, hoping to help other cat owners spot lymphoma as early as they were able to.

“When you pet them, make sure to also be examining them – touch them everywhere often. You shouldn’t feel lumps,” Pookie says. “Drinking a lot of water is also a red flag.”

Also be aware that if your cat is sick and you have other cats, they may be less than accommodating.

“They would walk up to him and smell him and run away,” Pookie says of her other cats, which includes another Instagram star, Nala. “Steve was the best one. Every time Coffee comes home from the vet, he grooms him. But Nala won’t groom anyone or let anyone groom her.”

Above all, Coffee’s family is filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for those who helped them get through a terrifying few months.

“We want to thank everyone who gave us the strength to be more positive about the situation,” she adds. “I think he could feel the love we got from everyone around the world.”