December 20th 2006 5:40 pm
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Casper and his sister were born on February 12, 2006 to my F1 Savannah Mamuu. Mamuu never nurses her babies so I pulled them shortly after they were born. I set up my bathroom as an incubator using a hot vaporizer, a small electric heater and a small clear plastic storage box with towels to keep them warm. When I begin to feed Casper with a bottle I discovered the formula was coming through his nose. Iâ€™ve never had this happen before, so I looked into his tiny mouth, what I saw was that he had no palate. I called my vet and he told me there was nothing you could do that I should bring him in and have him put down. I just couldnâ€™t do that, so I got online and read everything I could about cleft palates, most sites for kittens with cleft palates do suggest putting them down because they would most likely aspirate the formula and die of pneumonia being they can not suck and the formula would likely enter into his lungs. They did suggest trying tube feeding, but I am not comfortable with that, so I continued to feed Casper with the bottle. I would hold it a certain way count to 5 and gently sqeeze formula into his month.
Casper at 9 weeks old developed a bacterial infection, my vet said he was getting sick from his own good bacteria, he gave me a prescription for clavamox, said he doubted very much if Casper would survive another 3 weeks. The infection cleared up, but at least one a month after that the infection would come back, again I would administer the clavamox, and he cleared up every time. In the meantime I took him to a specialist in Tucson for them to give me a idea of what the cost of an operation would be. They quoted me a price which included having to remove 18 of his teeth, and they said they would not perform the surgery until Casper was at least 8 months old. I always thought that removing his teeth wasnâ€™t necessary, but who am I, Iâ€™m not a specialist in this field. I continued to get in touch with different Vets around the US, quote after quote, did I make a mistake, I canâ€™t afford this type of surgery, where would I get the funds to pay for it? Would he need a second surgery, as all of them said one surgery would not close the large cleft that Casper had. I was getting desperate, and a good friend of mine, Arden Morley referred me to her vet, who in turn referred me to a specialist in Las Vegas, Nevada. As Casper was growing I continued to take pictures of his cleft, her vet would forward them to this specialists in Nevada.
They gave her a quote to repair the cleft, and I think I could swing that amount I said to myself, even if I have to put myself in debt for a while.
On November 2, I visited with the specialists, Dr. Horstman. He said he would do everything possible to close Casperâ€™s palate with one surgery, but made me aware that he would likely need a second one. Casper, now almost 9 months old did go through surgery that day. I brought Casper home two days later. I still had to bottle feed him until his cleft healed, but this time it was harder, as he didnâ€™t know how to hold the bottle anymore in his mouth. He had gotten so used to the hole being there and the nipple I used, as it used to block the hole in the palate, but now it felt different to him. He never knew how to suck, and I couldnâ€™t feed him regular cat food. So I had to actually hold the nipple out of his mouth and squirt the formula into his mouth, boy what a mess that was.
In the meantime I continued to take pictures and forward them to the specialist in Nevada. They could not believe themselves that the palate was staying closed. They said it was one of the biggest clefts they had every seen.
At two weeks after surgery I tried to put food on Casperâ€™s tongue, and tried to get him to start eating on his own, he hated it, so I continued to give him his bottles. Finally three weeks after his surgery I decided I had to make him get hungry enough to try to eat on his own, only giving him his bottles twice a day instead of 5 times a day. Finally on Thanksgiving morning, with bottles in hand, and can food in the other hand, I sat down on my bedroom floor. Again I tried putting some food on his tongue, and to my surprise Casper begin to eat on his own from his bowl. I looked up and thanked God, for my baby finally is able to eat as any other normal cat does.