When Clark Kent came into the care of Last Chance Animal Rescue, he was a very sick little kitten.
He had arrived with a group of cats shipped from the Miami Humane Society, which has had a partnership with Last Chance since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005. As soon as the staff saw him, they knew something was wrong: He could hardly breathe. Last Chance rushed him to its on-campus vet hospital, the Waldorf Well Pet Clinic, where he was examined by veterinarian Dr. Michelle Quigley.
It turned out that Clark had a condition called pectus excavatum, also known as "funnel chest." In this disease, the breast bone and the cartilage that connects the ribs to the breast bone is deformed, which makes the chest narrow and pushes the breast bone into vital organs. Clark’s case was very severe; his misshapen rib cage was pressing on his heart and lungs, making it difficult for him to breathe and putting an incredible strain on his heart.
Last Chance’s vets knew Clark would die if they didn’t do something to relieve the pressure that his deformity was putting on his internal organs. If his pectus excavatum had been mild, they could have used physical therapy to coax his rib cage into the proper shape. But due to the severity of his condition, the only option was surgery, and it had to happen soon.
Surgery to correct this deformity involves placing a splint along the front of the chest to reshape the breast bone and rib cage. Of course, they didn’t have any specialized kitten splints on hand.
Quigley, Lead Vet Tech Sarah Knott, and Hospital Manager Juanita Harris came up with an idea: They used a large dog splint that they cut down to kitten size, used a bone saw to drill a few holes in it, and sutured the whole shebang to Clark’s chest. Over the splint went a tiny little body cast — with a very special decoration.
"I’m so proud of the people at the Well Pet Clinic," said Last Chance Animal Rescue Director Cindy Sharpley. "They put their heads together to figure this out and save this kitten’s life."
Clark’s loving, happy-go-lucky attitude and resilience so impressed the clinic and shelter staff that they made his cast into a little Superman outfit. Harris was so smitten with Clark that she fostered him during his initial recovery. In fact, "Superkitten" even won over a rather unusual foster parent.
The unstoppable and unbearably cute little fuzzball made an excellent recovery. About a month after his surgery, Clark’s cast came off and he was ready to go to a new home. This video was uploaded on June 26:
It didn’t take long for that perfect adopter to show up. On July 6, Clark Kent, aka Superkitten, went to his new home.
Farewell, Superkitten, and may you share many years of love, purrs, and shenanigans with your forever family.
Last Chance Animal Rescue, based in Waldorf, Maryland, works with about 40 shelters in seven states to find homes for cats. The organization rescues and rehomes 7,000 to 10,000 pets a year.
Photos from Last Chance Animal Rescue’s Facebook page unless otherwise specified.