A homeless cat born without eyelids can now see, thanks to efforts from a Manitoba community and a New York veterinarian.
Joe was just four weeks old when his owners brought him in to veterinarian Birte Klug in Selkirk, Man. for an eye infection.
"He was very little at four weeks — just a pound," said Klug.
'It is very rare. I have never seen that before in my career of 15 years' —Birte Klug, Selkirk veterinarian
Klug said she initially didn’t realize the tiny kitten had no eyelids because tufts of hair were covering his small eyes.
But after the eye infection wouldn’t go away, Klug gave the cat a closer inspection and realized he had no top lids.
"Knowing... it would be very expensive surgery, the client surrendered Joe," she said.
Joe had his eyesight but couldn’t really see — tufts of hair hung down over his eyes.
"It is very rare. I have never seen that before in my career of 15 years," she said.
"Originally I was just thinking, ‘Well, we don’t want to have him suffer, and we’ll put him down,’ but the technicians convinced me to find out if I can help him."
'Originally I was just thinking, ‘Well, we don’t want to have him suffer, and we’ll put him down' —Birte Klug, Selkirk veterinarian
So Klug turned to the internet and asked an international network of veterinarians and specialists if anything could be done for Joe.
"A specialist from New York said, ‘Don’t put him down. We can help this cat!’" Klug said.
The surgery would typically cost about $2,500 — funds Klug didn't have — but Noelle La Croix, a veterinary ophthamologist, agreed to come in on her day off to do the surgery for free, and Klug held a small fundraiser in Selkirk to help pay for the materials.
Then Klug bought her own plane ticket and accompanied Joe to New York City, N.Y, for his April 18 surgery date.
There, La Croix and her technician made the cat new lids from skin near his lips.
Now, Joe is back in Selkirk healing at Klug's veterinary clinic, and according to Klug "in good spirits."
But better than a new set of blinkers, when Joe is fully healed, he’ll have a new home to go to. A family in Selkirk has agreed to adopt the cat.
"They’re all excited to welcome him home very soon," Klug said.
Joe is expected to make a full recovery from the surgery but because he has small eyeballs, he won’t be completely normal.
"He will not look like a perfectly normal cat, but he does have vision in both eyes," said Klug.