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A tale of two kitties

From Animal Sheltering magazine July/August 2012

During the 2011 holidays, two 6-week-old kittens were brought to our shelter. Our staff, appropriately, named them Rudolph and Jingle. Both kittens had eye problems, diagnosed as severe bilateral eyelid agenesis—the result of a birth defect. In short, they lacked full eyelids, and facial fur was growing into their eyes. Each time they blinked, the hair caused irritation—much like having grains of sand in your eye. To avoid the pain, they kept their eyes closed and tried to not use them, making them essentially blind.

Our kitten foster parents are very special people, who willingly bottle-feed tiny kittens through the night and care for them until they’re big enough to return to the shelter for spay/neuter and adoption. The foster parent who eventually took in Rudolph and Jingle did some research and found a veterinary group on the mainland in Homestead, Fla., that specialized in eye disorders.

Sadly, the prognosis was not good. Dr. Teresa Tucci of Veterinary Specialists Inc. explained that treatment would be twofold: first, laser treatment to take away the pain; followed by reconstructive surgery to build eyelids to prevent hair growing back into the eye, and so that they could blink properly— very important to good eye health.

But—and this was a very big but—these treatments, surgeries, and hospital aftercare were an expensive proposition, especially for a small, independent island shelter operating on limited resources. Dr. Tucci said that once people find out the cost, they usually opt to put the animal to sleep. She lowered the bill for us considerably, but it was still going to be pricey.

Fortunately for Rudolph and Jingle, we have Oscar’s Fund, a dedicated fund for medical and surgical expenses for sick or wounded animals. But a special friend of Oscar’s Fund stepped forward, ensuring that Oscar’s Fund would not be depleted; she would not only personally underwrite the expenses, but offered to make the journeys to and from Homestead. We graciously and gratefully accepted.

The laser treatment took place. Once the pain was gone, the kittens’ vision improved. For the very first time, they could focus on a whole new world. Two weeks later, they returned to Homestead for six days and nights for the reconstructive eyelid surgery—which was a complete success. By now, Dr. Tucci and her staff had become fond of the two kittens, referring to them as their “island boys.” There was one last trip to Homestead to remove sutures, and now Rudolph and Jingle can lead a normal life. They were recently adopted together. After all they had gone through, ever yone agreed they could never be parted.


About the Author

Tammy Fox is the executive director of the Florida Keys SPCA in Key West, Fla.