Little Big Burger worked hard and gained a pound in two weeks, Covey said. He has to stay on antibiotics for his kidneys but his prognosis is improving.
"He's not giving up, so I'm not," she said.
Runts aren't welcomed everywhere, though. Wilbur, the classic runted pig in the children's book "Charlotte's Web," was saved from slaughter with the help of a spider, but animal agriculture and food producers in real life aren't as forgiving.
A pig farmer thinking about Easter hams will probably cull runts from his pens because they will never reach the body size needed for meat production, Meadows explained.
Meadows also noted that in the wild, only the strong survive. And runts likely won't win sporting awards, since they won't have the muscles or build needed for agility or show ring competition.
Even some animal welfare groups won't champion all runts to families. The Cat Adoption Team in Oregon wants to place as many kittens as possible, but it will draw the line with some runts, said operations manager Kristi Brooks.
"If there are a lot of rambunctious kids, we suggest that a bigger kitten might fare better," she said.