Eye surgery helps keep your beloved cat safe at home
Tarek Z. had just returned home from a long weekend when he noticed that his three-year-old cat, Charlene, had injured her eye while being looked after by her housemates.
“I was devastated,” says Tarek, a freelance actor and comedian in his twenties from Brooklyn. “His right eye was completely closed and he was also missing two claws on his right hind leg.”
Tarek transported Charlene to a nearby veterinary emergency hospital, where doctors confirmed she had suffered physical trauma to her lens and claws. They told Tarek that Charlene was also susceptible to feline post-traumatic ocular sarcoma (a potentially cancerous eye tumor).
“They told me Charlene needed to see a veterinary eye doctor, but they had reservations until February 2022,” Tarek explains. ” I was lost. I had already spent several hundred dollars by this point and couldn’t afford more. I did not know what to do.
That night, Tarek tearfully resigned himself to abandoning Charlene to an animal shelter, where he hoped she could get the necessary veterinary care and find another loving home.
“A last saving option”
Tarek came to the ASPCA adoption center on November 22 with Charlene in tow.
“All the other shelters were full,” he said. “I work part-time, I don’t have family here and I knew Charlene needed surgery. I was sobbing. I felt like I had no choice but to give it up.
Tori White, a liaison with ASPCA Client Programs, met with Tarek and listened patiently as he explained his situation. She contacted Yessenia Castillo, Senior Customer Service Representative at ASPCA Animal Hospital. Working with security guard Shorna Williams and Jamie Flesch, a veterinary support associate with the ASPCA’s Midwest office, Tori and Yessenia secured an appointment for Charlene at the hospital that day.
“Everyone was incredibly nice and comforting,” Tarek says. “I was so grateful.”
A surgical solution
Dr Janice Fenichel, who first examined Charlene, diagnosed the cat with a penetrating injury to the cornea – or an injury to the front part of her eye. His condition would require the surgical removal of his right eye, a procedure called enucleation.
“In cats, eye pain manifests as squinting and tearing, and Charlene has done both,” said Dr. Fenichel, who admitted Charlene, helped her manage her pain and scheduled her surgery for the next day.
Although the ASPCA does not have a veterinary ophthalmologist on staff, experienced veterinarians have expertise in performing enucleations on dogs and cats.
Charlene’s surgery was made possible by the One ASPCA Fund, a program whose goal is to keep pets and people together by covering the cost of medical treatment for qualified cases that have a good prognosis and require relatively short-term care.
Dr Anna Whitehead performed Charlene’s operation, removing her right eye and surrounding soft tissue before sewing the upper and lower eyelids together.
“She may appear to blink all the time,” says Dr. Whitehead.
“Depth perception is slightly affected in one-eyed cats, but this isn’t a significant issue for house cats like Charlene. Most of these animals don’t seem to have any trouble adapting.
Tarek drove Charlene home the next day and brought her back two weeks later for a re-check. “She was super happy and comfortable,” Dr. Whitehead reports. “We removed the sutures with no problem.”
A renewed link
Tarek confirms that one-eyed Charlene is doing well.
“She’s a real soldier,” he said. “It’s the same cat but even more cheeky now. She jumps on counters, chases her tail, plays fetch. It’s remarkable.
Tarek’s bond with Charlene dates back to her college days when she was a six-month-old semi-outdoor kitten with no permanent home.
“She’s my incredibly calming emotional support cat,” says Tarek. “To pet her is very therapeutic and she has helped me through some difficult times. She keeps me down.
“When I couldn’t afford to pay for his operation. It was heartbreaking,” adds Tarek.
“Circumstances like Tarek’s can force even the most dedicated pet owner to consider giving up a beloved animal,” says Joel Lopez, vice president of the ASPCA Adoption Center. “Providing support that helps people keep their pets in and out of shelters is hugely beneficial to pets, their owners, and other animals who depend on the shelter.
When Tarek picked up Charlene on Nov. 24, Tori took a photo of them to share with ASPCA staff.
“He was so grateful to have his cat back,” Tori says. “It was a wonderful time for all of us.”