After Samantha Smart and her family heard a tiny kitten meowing around their home in Florida, they made it their mission to help him.

“It wasn’t just a meow, it was a sad little cry,” Smart told The Dodo. “He had the whole neighborhood working together to find and trap him. We have one cat already so we weren’t really looking to add another, but it felt like Ponyo was meant for us!”

The family adopted Ponyo and did everything to help him to settle into his new life as soon as possible.

To make the transition smoother, Samantha’s daughter thought Ponyo needed a new friend. One that would be entirely his. So the kitty got his own special stuffed dragon.

Ponyo quickly fell in love with his new BFF. In fact, the kitty was having such a great time with it, Samantha even took it to vet’s to make Ponyo feel braver during surgery. And it worked.

More info: Ponyo (Facebook) | Operation Catnip (Facebook and Instagram)

“My daughter Violet spent a while picking out the perfect friend for him to sleep with and settled on Dragon,” Samantha explained. “He sleeps with Dragon every night and spends a lot of his time dragging him around the house!”

When Ponyo finally had to get neutered, his hoomans knew he might be a little nervous about going to the vet and could use some company. So they sent in his dragon to keep him company.

As soon as the kitty and his buddy came to Operation Catnip, a spay-neuter organization that works mainly with unowned, free-roaming community cats, everyone couldn’t help but notice the tiny critter hiding behind his beloved plushie.

Everyone saw that Ponyo’s toy made him feel a little safer while he was getting used to the new place and people. So, they made sure the two would stay together the entire time.

“Ponyo is a happy and healthy kitten,” Melissa Jenkins, the Operations Director for Operation Catnip, told Bored Panda. “Thanks to his mom, who found him and took him into her home, as well as our Kitten Shelter Diversion Program, Ponyo has had access to important vaccinations and spay-neuter surgery which helped to set him up for a healthy life ahead.”

The staff at Operation Catnip thought it would be really great to send the dragon on the same journey through the clinic as Ponyo, so they even gave it the same service as Ponyo.

No wonder the kitty was nervous when he arrived at the vet: at the time, his life was changing every second. But his dragon did everything you’d expect from your BFF — it stayed by the his side, reassuring it that everything will be just fine. And it was!

Image credits: Operation Catnip

Jenkins said the Kitten Shelter Diversion Program is a partnership between Operation Catnip and the community to keep vulnerable kittens out of crowded shelters and help them start new lives as loving family pets. “When members of the public find kittens outdoors, we encourage them to foster the kittens in their home rather than take them to shelters or rescues, which are already very full, especially at this time of year, and which don’t always have the capacity to help with the surge of kittens,” Jenkins explained.

“Operation Catnip provides support by way of supplies and veterinary care for the kittens, and once they ‘graduate’ from the program (have their spay-neuter surgery), we ask that those caregivers then take on the responsibility of finding them homes!”

The organization even gives them a list of online rehoming resources to post and share their kittens, or they simply use their own social networks to find homes. “In addition, we ask that the caregivers are very thorough about getting the whole family fixed — we want them to bring us the mother cat for sterilization too, as well as any other unaltered cats from the area where the kittens were found,” Jenkins explained.

“We can even loan out humane live traps to them to catch any cats that are too feral to pick up by hand. It’s critical to ending the cycle of reproduction for that group and making sure no more kittens are born to them next year! Ponyo was found outdoors in the neighborhood, and his mom, Samantha, searched for a mother cat and siblings for several days, but never located any others. Ponyo ended up working his magic and they decided to keep him themselves, using the Kitten Shelter Diversion Program to start his new life on the right foot!”

People absolutely adored Ponyo and his favorite toy