Foster Diary Health

Feline Agenesis: Simba’s Story

How eyelid reconstruction for one kitten’s birth defects saved his eyes.

Lesson Learned: Feline eyelid agenesis is a birth defect where the lip of the eyelid is partial or non-existent, and severe cases warrant surgery.

5 month old Maine Coon mix
Gray stripe
Hissy, bitey and mean
Something is up with his eyes
Plan: Properly socialize so he isn’t so scared of people and figure out what is up with his eyes.

First thing I noticed, his eyes were a weird shape.

What did I do next? I Googled it. barely had eyelids, and the part that’s hairless and holds your eyelashes was completely missing. I learned the condition is a birth defect called feline eyelid agenesis.

My next step: I took him to an ophthalmologist.

So, what’s the prob, Liz? He doesn’t need to put on eyeliner.
No, he doesn’t, but because he’s fury, his fur was growing in to his eyes and scratching them. The ophthalmologist noted a small dot on Simba’s eye, and red blood vessels running into it. This is a corneal ulcer (caused in Simba’s case from fur rubbing the eye).

Ulcers are very painful, and if left untreated, they can lead to blindness. His ophthalmologist prescribed ofloxicin drops to treat the ulcer. The ulcer had to heal before scheduling any surgery.

What’s the long-term prognosis?

Reoccurring ulcers are not good. Pain is not good, and letting them go could cause blindness. His eyelid agenesis was very severe – almost the full length of the eye (often times it’s a smaller portion).

You’d never guess the solution: Gums!

Simba needed reconstruction surgery by an ophthalmologist. The surgery involved removing pieces of gum tissues and attaching them to the eyelid. Why gums? Simply, they don’t grow hair.

That sounds expensive.
It was, but totally worth it. Through a GoFundMe and bake sale, I raised enough money for his entire surgery.

Poster for bake sale to raise money for Simba’s eyelid reconstruction surgery.

I was so excited for his surgery, because I knew it would help him live the rest of his life pain free.
Nervous all day, I kept checking my phone. Eventually, I received a call from the ophthalmologist that everything went really well.

After I picked him up, I took him right home to rest. He was pretty sad, in his cone of shame. He really disliked the plastic cone of shame they gave him, so I got him one from Amazon that was more comfortable and easy to clean.

Maine Coon kitten mix post-op eye surgery in cone of shame.
Simba relaxing in a window perch in his comfy cone of shame.

It was not this exact one, but very similar. I’d take it off in short stints when I would lay with him, and he really enjoyed that.

The eyes were stitched and scabbed over, which took a few weeks to heal. Eventually, the scabs fell off and then it was adoption time!

Special thanks to Philly–area ophthalmologist Dr. Stephen Gross

Not only is he incredibly smart and talented, he’s also extremely nice and did a fantastic job explaining everything to me and taking care of my little lion.

Simba Post Eyelid Reconstruction Surgery
Simba’s fur is no longer growing into his eyes after his eyelid reconstruction surgery.

Where is Simba now?

One of the front desk staff at the hospital fell in love with him and adopted him. Unfortunately, he died of occult heart disease without warning about a year after his adoption. When I received the devastating news, it broke my heart, but his story has educated so many others on this condition. He left behind a wonderful legacy that continues to help other kittens and cats.

Want to learn about another interesting eye condition in cats? Read about it here.

By LizsKittyBootCamp

Hi, I'm Liz, and I'm a cat behaviorist who provides advice and insights on cat behavior.

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