Kelowna veterinarian Dr. Ellen Nicklassen checks over AlleyCATS Alliance feral kittens Spot and Marble that she is currently caring for. Submitted photo

Okanagan rescued kittens now in desperate need of eye surgery

Two of five kittens rescued from a Kelowna works yard in need of eye surgery

Two of five feral kittens saved from certain death at a Kelowna works yard last month are once again facing an uncertain future.

Nine-week-old Spot (a boy) and Marble (a girl) are currently under the care of Dr. Ellen Nicklassen at the Kelowna Veterinary Hospital but are in desperate need of surgery to correct a congenital eye defect.

“Once we get them into the ophthalmologist then we’ll have more news but the poor little things, their eyelashes are growing straight into their eyes, especially Spot. He’s the worst, it’s really bad,” said president Sue Beagle of AlleyCATS Alliance the organization that took in the five after they were rescued. “That’s our only hope if we can raise the money for the surgery. It’s going to be thousands of dollars, we just don’t know how many thousands right now.”

According to Dr. Nicklassen the condition is called Eyelid Agenesis.

“It’s where literally the lids of their eyes didn’t form properly and so the watery part of the eye, the mucus membrane in their eyes, goes directly to the furred part of the cat,” said Dr. Nicklassen, who regularly cares for AlleyCATS feline clients. “The fur is rubbing right on the eyeball itself, there’s no lid barrier in there.

“If they don’t have the surgery, they’re going to constantly have very very irritated eyes. Imagine having an eyelash in your eye your whole life. It’s painful and can cause damage to the eyeballs themselves and if it gets bad enough some of those corneal ulcerations can lead to them losing their eyes.”

Related: Okanagan feral kittens rescued from ‘certain death’ now in foster care

The kittens were born to a feral mom on the Kelowna Waste Connections of Canada property where their loud cries were heard one day by an employee.

They were subsequently found between two large bales of paper that were just about to be moved which would have crushed the kittens.

Beagle initially took three of the babies that needed to be bottle fed day and night and Carol Bubb of Summerland had the other other two.

“It’s just so darn hard because you just get so attached to the little things, and especially after they were saved in the first place,” said Beagle. “You really have to think about their quality of life, so if we can just give them normal eyes…”

While they are waiting for their surgery, Dr. Nicklassen, who described AlleyCATS volunteers as “incredible people” has tried to make them more comfortable.

“I’ve put a couple of stitches in the kitties’ upper eyelids to basically lift the furred part away so that the fur is not scratching on their eyes, but it’s not a permament fix,” she said.

Related: Okanagan feline foster families helping AlleyCATS

According to Theresa Nolet of AlleyCATS, the animals will not be euthanized unless it becomes an issue of pain and suffering.

“So if we can’t afford the surgery and we need to find somebody to put drops in their eyes all the time, then that’s what we will do,” she said.

Alliance officials are currently considering holding a fundraiser for help the kittens and in the meantime anyone who can help can donate on its website: http://alleycatsalliance.org.

Based in Penticton, AlleyCATS is affiliated with the Okanagan Cat Coalition, an umbrella organization of concerned animal welfare charities, veterinarians and residents.

Dealing with the estimated 20,000 feral cat population is a big part of the work done by AlleyCATS which regularly traps the cats, has them spayed or neutered and either put up for adoption or returned to locations where they can live out their lives.


 

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