Kitty Kidney Transplant Saves Two Lives

 |  Dec 16th 2011  |   14 Contributions


Cadbury (left) donated a kidney to Opie. Both cats' lives were saved as a result. Photo by Karen Pulfer Focht for the <em>Memphis Commercial Appeal</em>

Opie the cat needed a miracle.

The 12-year-old Siamese cat had been living with kidney disease since the tender age of 4. He was doing fine until late this summer, when he began to show that he was in the end stage of his illness.

His caretaker, Catherine Addy-Bernstein, knew she had a serious decision to make.

Without any treatment, Opie — who had seen her through the recent loss of several family members and her oldest cat — would have at most two months to live.

Opie had a good chance of spending many more years with Addy-Bernstein if he could get the treatment that would save his life: a kidney transplant.

Feline kidney transplants cost $12,000 to $16,000. But Addy-Bernstein had pet health insurance and she knew that Siamese cats are known for their long lifespans — up to 20 years, and sometimes even more — so she decided to go ahead with the surgery.

The most beautiful thing about this story is not the incredible sacrifice she made on Opie's behalf. It's the fact that in the process of saving her own cat's life, she saved another cat too.

When a cat needs a kidney transplant, surgeons look to local animal shelters to find a donor match. The person who owns the recipient cat must adopt the donor cat, too.

In Opie's case, the lucky winner of the transplant lottery was Cadbury, a gorgeous black cat who was on death row at a Philadelphia animal shelter.

And now, three months later, Opie and Cadbury are best buddies. They enjoy one another's company, and sometimes they're even seen grooming one another. "The [cats] have a special connection," says Addy-Bernstein. "I've heard it's the same with human transplants."

Who knows why the cat had been afflicted with such a terrible problem at such a young age? The article I read didn't specify the type of kidney disease from which Opie suffered, but Siamese cats do have a greater than average chance of inheriting genes that lead to kidney disease.

Shelling out 12 grand to get a cat a kidney transplant may seem ridiculous to some people, but honestly, if I had the money and one of my cats needed it, and my vet told me that my baby would enjoy a good quality of life after the surgery, I'd probably do the same thing. I'd be glad to save another cat's life in the process, too.

If you want to learn more about Opie, he's going to be featured on the Animal Planet TV series Must Love Cats in early 2012.

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