Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Auggie Pullman and the Cleft Lip

I got a call from a friend who works at a local produce stand that someone had dumped a small, grey kitten there and that it seemed to have something wrong with its mouth. After a somewhat harrowing (and yowling) session of 'Catch the Wild Kitten' I had a filthy ball of fur in a carrier that snarled angrily and then settled into several hours of silence.

Jill and I pulled him out of the carrier a few hours later, and we discovered what seemed to be an entirely changed (but still filthy), tiny kitten. He was a thing of bones and sharp angles and filthy fur... but oh, could he purr. The tiny ball of hissing and snarling had become a kitten desperate for love, and food.

Cleft Lips and Birth Defects

I checked him out, and sure enough, he did have something wrong with his mouth. What I discovered was a mild birth defect called a cleft lip. The cleft was not severe and just shows as one side of the lip being a bit shorter than the other. The other side of his lip had been injured, was swollen, scabbed and still oozing a bit of blood. I checked inside his mouth, and was happy to find that the birth defect was only external and that he did not seem to have a cleft in his palate.

Cleft lips are not uncommon as far as birth defects go, but they can be of varying severity. A mild cleft like on Auggie is mostly just a cosmetic issue. In more severe cases, the entire lip and sometimes parts of the nose can be missing. The most dangerous is a cleft palate. This is an oral malformation where the inside of the mouth does not fully meet in the upper palate, leaving a hole inside the mouth. Kittens with this sort of birth defect may not thrive and may even die if it is severe enough. A cleft palate can keep a kitten from being able to suckle and eat.

Cleaning Up Auggie

I took him home for food and relaxing time, then de-worming meds, flea treatment and a painfully necessary bath. He was so filthy that I bathed him twice before the water ran clean. It's been a long time since I found a kitten so dirty and flea covered.

After bath time I worked on some wound care for his lip and a great deal of drying, floofing, styling
Auggie on the left.
and cuddling. This adorable grey kitten lacked facial symmetry, felt like holding a tiny car crash of sharp angles and had a meow like a 40 year chain-smoker and dedicated whiskey consumer. In short, I was in love.

The last few weeks have seen the healing of his 'good lip' and the decrease in swelling makes the cleft lip even less obvious. He's incredibly sweet. Auggies loves to be held, cuddled, petted, snuggled and otherwise next to a human. As I type this, he is sleeping on top of my right foot. He's putting weight on well but is still on the skinny side. He has about 6 ounces left to go before he can go to the vet and be fixed and get shots.

On the Naming of Cats

Auggie is named for August 'Auggie' Pullman, the main character from Wonder, a children's novel by Raquel Jaramillo, under the pen name of R. J. Palacio. Auggie is an 11 year old boy with severe facial deformities who was home schooled through his early life. The book covers Auggie's transition into attending school and the changes that happen in his life and the lives of those who love him.

Here's how our Auggie started out:

We've come a long way...  

On to the biggest news of the day: We have a family who would like to adopt Auggie!

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