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Dr. Cassandra Bliss, a veterinary ophthalmologist, performs an eye surgery Friday on a kitten from the Committed Alliance to Strays organization. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch

Sight for sore eyes

Two shelter kittens with eye defects will live better lives, thanks to surgeries performed by a local veterinarian and specialist who donated their time.{br class="hardreturn" /}
The effort started in early December while Dr. Tami Rogers of Jacksonville Veterinary Hospital was spaying and neutering cats for Committed Alliance to Strays. She noticed that two 12-week-old kittens from the same litter, a male named Seis and a female named Monique, were missing large portions of their upper eyelids because of a congenital defect. {br class="hardreturn" /}
Rogers reached out to veterinary ophthalmologist Dr. Cassandra Bliss of Southern Oregon Veterinary Specialty Center to operate on the two kittens. {br class="hardreturn" /}
"Normally Friday is my day off, so I came to do this," Bliss said.{br class="hardreturn" /}
The two veterinarians had just completed Monique's lip-to-lid transposition surgery, which took about an hour per eye, when they introduced the kitten to the media.{br class="hardreturn" /}
"She says, 'I'm ready to sleep, you guys,' " Dr. Bliss said, cradling the weary animal. {br class="hardreturn" /}
Eyelid surgery was only recently featured the Journal of Veterinary Ophthalmology, but Bliss has performed the procedure several times. {br class="hardreturn" /}
Bliss, who moved to the Rogue Valley three months ago, said the procedure involves extracting tissue from the cat's mouth and lips, then grafting it above the eyes to serve as eyelids. She said the upper eyelids protect the surface of the eye and provide even distribution of tears. She explained that nerves and muscle from the tissue will in time begin to function.{br class="hardreturn" /}
"Within six months she'll actually start to blink," Bliss said.{br class="hardreturn" /}
Helping Monique see better was doubly important, as she serves as a guide for her brother, who has lost his sight from infection and complications likely caused by his eyelid defect. {br class="hardreturn" /}
"She acts as sort of a seeing-eye kitten," Bliss said.{br class="hardreturn" /}
Rogers and Bliss removed the male's painful blind eyes and inserted prosthetics. {br class="hardreturn" /}
"He's been non-vision for some time, so this will make him comfortable," Bliss said.{br class="hardreturn" /}
"His other senses compensate," said Rogers as Seis played with a leash and a toy ball with a bell inside prior to his surgery. "He's obviously faring very well."{br class="hardreturn" /}
The veterinarians anticipate both kittens will live comfortable, low-maintenance lives.{br class="hardreturn" /}
"Their after-care is going to be very, very limited," Bliss said. "She can go home in two to three weeks and be adopted with her brother."{br class="hardreturn" /}
The services to the two kittens is valued at $6,300, according to Rogers. The surgery is far from the first pro bono veterinary service for the Jacksonville clinic, which donated 50 spay and 69 neuter procedures to C.A.T.S. in 2014, services valued at approximately $14,000. The clinic schedules those surgeries as they have time. A receptionist noted that the clinic also donates services to Guide Dogs for the Blind and Dogs for the Deaf.{br class="hardreturn" /}
"It's a good way to give back to the community. We don't even have to leave the office," Rogers said.{br class="hardreturn" /}
For information about adopting the two kittens or other cats, call C.A.T.S. at 541-779-2916. More information on the veterinarians' practices is available at www.sovsc.com or www.blissanimaleyecare.com.{br class="hardreturn" /}
Nick Morgan is a Mail Tribune news aide. Reach him at nmorgan@mailtribune.com or 541-776-4477.{br class="hardreturn" /}
Correction: the phone number for C.A.T.S. appeared incorrectly in the print edition.{br class="hardreturn" /}

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