Rescue kitty's family turns to renowned wildlife vet

2015-07-01 14:03
Cocopops. (Zahnie Harris, Supplied)

Cocopops. (Zahnie Harris, Supplied)

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Cape Town - The family who rescued Cocopops the kitten are pinning their hopes on an operation that would remove all the cancerous tissue and bone from the left side of her face.

They have turned to veterinarian Dr Gerhard Steenkamp, whose areas of expertise are dentistry and maxillofacial surgery, and who is known for his work with a range of wildlife, including rhino and cheetah.

During the operation, the kitten’s left eye would be kept in place by an embedded nylon sling while the excised areas would be filled with soft tissue and mucosa layers. Surgery is expected to begin within the next couple of weeks.

“I did a photo-shoot with her so we will be able to remember what she looked like before the operation,” said Volksrust photographer Zahnie Harris, mom to the teenager who rescued the kitten.

The black and white domestic furball is believed to have a very rare and aggressive oral tumour. There are apparently only a handful of reported studies of the feline inductive odontogenic tumour worldwide.

Suné Harris, 17, who lives with her sister in Heidelberg, Gauteng, rescued the kitten from her school a few months ago.

Ugliest kitten

The teen found the litter of kittens in a storeroom after hearing their “meows”.

“Because others thought Cocopops was the ugliest kitten and nobody wanted her, Suné immediately decided she would take her,” her mother said.

A dentist found out about the kitten’s plight and recommended that the family contact Steenkamp. Cocopops had a CT scan at the Onderstepoort Veterinary Academic Hospital in Pretoria last week.

Steenkamp, who is a senior veterinary science lecturer at the University of Pretoria, told News24 he believed the tumour diagnosis matched the presentation and age group of the kitten; however he had taken another biopsy and was awaiting a second opinion.

He is currently working with cheetahs in Namibia and will only be able to provide further information next week.

The estimated cost of the operation is between R8 000 and R10 000, should there be no complications.


Zahnie said strangers had generously opened their hearts and wallets. Donations were standing at R9 600 to date. A Pretoria bed and breakfast owner also offered the family a free night’s accommodation so they could be near the hospital.

“You can see Cocopops is struggling to eat now and she pushes her food to the right side of her mouth. But she is still happy,” Zahnie said.

The kitten loves driving around with the family and sticking her head out the window. She also lies on her mom’s shoulders when she wants a cuddle or is scared.

Read more on:    cape town  |  animals

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