Wednesday, February 2, 2011

So whatever happend to Tsavo the blind kitten?

Those of you that were customers back in 2009 might remember this furry face.

We were so excited to get our Bengal kittens, Tsavo and Zerah, in early November of 2009. Sadly, though, we realized that something was wrong with Tsavo. While he'd chase a toy on the ground if you picked it up he'd treat it as though he was invisible- quickly we realized that he couldn't see, and had been tracking the toy by sound alone.

After waiting two months to see a specialist, Tsavo was diagnosed with birth-defect cataracts in both eyes. He has almost no vision in his left eye and only about 25% in his right eye. The good news is that he had a fantastic chance at gaining his vision back with surgery- a 96% success rate which should give him about 90% of his vision back.

The bad news, of course, was that the surgery was astronomically expensive... it was the same surgery as would be performed on a human being, to open up the eyes, removed the clouded lenses, insert new lenses and close him up... to say nothing of the staggering amount of after care that encopasses weeks of drops and pills that require their own spreadsheet for tracking and scheduling doses.

Without any other way to pay for the surgery, I turned to Etsy and the outpouring of support was unexpected, in both the degree of caring and the sheer magnitude of compassion for one little blind kitten.  We listed items whose entire purchase price went towards surgery (though to be honest the purchase price of EVERY item went towards it), and offered special Tsavo Pins, little tiger's eye hair pins that people would get for a donation and could wear on the day of surgery to help send good thoughts and prayers his way.

Thankfully Tsavo wasn't alone in all this, hewasn't alone, he had his sister, Zerah, with him to be his eyes. 

The vet wouldn't do surgery until Tsavo was nine months old so his eyes would be mostly done growing, trying to hit that balance between fixing his eyes young and the greatest chances of long-term success.  In these pictures you can see how the cataracts making his eyes clouded and reflect light strangely.  In those months Tsavo grew:

And grew:

And grew some more until we had a whopping 16 pound baby cat going to the doctor for surgery:

The donations and support from Etsy were enough to cover about half of the several thousand dollar surgery, and we saved and cut back anywhere we could found the rest.  Finally on a chilly day in May it was time to go for it. We booked a hotel in the same city as the specialist and Tsavo lived it up:

The next morning we loaded Tsavo up into his carrier and took him to the clinic. We were asked to sign off on him, initialing that yes, we authorized the surgery, yes we knew it was cataract surgery, and yes we wanted the replacement lenses.

There was the option of just taking out the clouded lenses, but his ability to focus would be poor, and we decided if we were going to put him through this we were going to do it right, dammit. New lenses it was.  Leaving him there was terribly, terribly hard, but thankfully he was the first surgery of the day, so we had word by early afternoon that he had made it through the surgery and we could come pick him up in a few hours.

Later we got a second call, this one from the doctor himself to say that he thought the surgery had gone well. There had been a small fear that something could be wrong with his corneas, something we were unable to know until they opened his eyes up- but there was no issue at all!

Sitting in the waiting room with DH and the owners of three small, obnoxious dogs (all of which were named after food: Ginger, Taffy and Cocoa) we were FINALLY allowed to go into a room and see our baby.

They had him in his carrier and the vet tech took him out and I nearly burst into tears. He looked TERRIBLE. I knew he'd look rough, but I didn't know that they'd shaved parts of his face, and that coupled with his blearly expression, and the gunk all over his face... gah...

(this pic is actually after we got back to the hotel, but the look is much the same).

The surgery has been a resounding success- it's rare to have optical problems in cats, dogs are much, much more common, and the doc and the tech praised Tsavo, what a great cat he was, how most cats are just terrible to deal with, but how Tsavo was his sweet self all the way through. And they talked about how gorgeous he is.

There were zero issues with the surgery and the doc was amazed how great Tsavo looked (this is obviously a relative evaluation, there's great-looking-terrible and not-so-great-looking-terrible, apparently).

FINALLY, it was time to go home! Although he was no longer on pain meds, he slept pretty much the entire ride. He was great in the car both ways, barely made a peep and just slept.

The road to recovery was long.  Weeks and weeks of drops and pills, checkups and evaluations.  Needless to say, Tsavo is not a huge fan of having his eyes messed with.

In the end, though, it was all worth it.  Just a day after surgery Tsavo was, for the first time, able to look in the garden and see the birds that he'd been hearing for months:

So, how is he now, a year and a half later?  Fantastic.  His vision isn't perfect, he's a bit farsighted, but that's normal for this type of surgery.  The quality of life he has now is so above and beyond what he had before that I can't even imagine him as blind anymore.  He's grown (and then grown some more) into a healthy, sweet cat who can fully enjoy the world.

And here is is admiring a bumblebee in the garden:

For those of you that donated and sent good thoughts, thank you.  There are no words that can express the gratitude we have for those that reached out to help a cat they had never met.  You changed Tsavo's world for the better, and I know if he could thank you himself, he would.

Don't forget that anyone that's signed up to follow our blog by the 4th of this month, Friday, will be sent a 10% discount code for their next order!  See the previous entry for directions on how to sign up!


  1. This is so great! I remember, I stumbled across your shop around the time the surgery was scheduled and always have wondered if everything was allright. Good to hear it was! And he looks marvellous! :)

  2. So glad to hear that Tsavo is doing so well!

  3. He is such a cute kitty! I'm so glad everything has worked out for him.

  4. Thanks for the update! So glad he's doing well!!

  5. This made me cry... I'm going in for eye surgery myself in two weeks. I've had double vision since I was 2 years old, I'm currently 24 and after years of saving I can finally afford the surgery. I have 2 fur babies of my own Munchkin and Georgie, both rescues. I have pictures on my blog if you want to see them. I couldn't bare it for my babies to be in pain like that..
    Your babies are both so beautiful and I am so happy to hear that Tsavo's blindness was cured! This story was touching and something I really needed to hear right now.. you have no idea.. thank you so much for sharing this!
    Wishing you and yours many blessings!