Deaf cat saved from going blind by vets

The future is looking bright for Kafka, a cat who recently received sight-saving surgery from a leading ophthalmologist at Swindon-based vets.

Owners James Dickenson and Jo Brydon adopted Kafka in July 2020 when she was just three months old and diagnosed with cerebellar hypoplasia, an incurable neurological condition that causes her head and body to involuntarily twitch. Not long after this, her vets and carers also noticed Kafka was deaf.

Her physical differences meant that Kafka’s owners communicated with her through sign language. So, when they noticed a white mistiness in her eyes at the start of this year they were naturally concerned.

James said: “Kafka has always been a very happy, loving and personable cat, right from when she was born. Despite her physical differences, she has always enjoyed jumping and bouncing about everywhere and she really loves being outdoors with us. Her understanding of sign language has come leaps and bounds since she was born and she often treats us to some lovely tricks, knows the sign for food and comes running when you call her.

“At the start of this year, however, we noticed a few changes in her behaviour and also noticed there was a kind of white mistiness right in the middle of both her pupils, which seemed to be compromising her ability to follow our sign language. A trip to the local vet informed us that she may have cataracts in both eyes. We were referred to Eastcott Veterinary Referrals, in Swindon, and got an appointment to be seen quite quickly. Due to restrictions, we were asked to stay outside the hospital and the ophthalmologist did a phone consultation with us, after which they came out and took Kafka in for her examination.

“We were invited in at a social distance and the veterinary team informed us Kafka needed double cataract surgery in order to avoid completely losing her vision due to progressive cataracts.”

James gave a glowing review of the expert team, who explained all the details of the procedure that was needed and provided an excellent level of care to Kafka.

She said: “We went away and came back about a month after raising the money we needed for the surgery with the help from Battersea, the animal charity we adopted her from.  The team at Eastcott were exceptional and kept us informed and assured at every stage of the entire process. They even told us when Kafka was being anaesthetised, so we weren’t worried about how long she was in the operating theatre for.

“The aftercare has been fantastic as well. Not only were we given detailed instructions on how to administer the drops she needed and the dos and don’ts regarding her aftercare, but we are seen very regularly by the surgeon who looked after her case, Ida Gilbert, for follow up appointments.

“Kafka was so comfortable with the entire team at Eastcott and would very willingly allow them to examine her, which speaks volumes about the care at the practice.”

Commenting on the procedure, Ida Gilbert, head of ophthalmology at Eastcott, which is part of Linnaeus, said: “We always recommend that cataracts are seen quickly so they can be managed appropriately with anti-inflammatory medication and scheduled for surgery as soon as possible. Ignoring cataracts can lead to inflammation of the eye (uveitis) which can eventually lead to glaucoma and retinal detachment and in some cases may become inoperable.

“When Kafka came to us, she was not fully blind, but had progressive cataracts in her central axis, therefore reducing her vision quite significantly. She was able to see moving objects or if they had a good contrast colour for example. She was better at tracking a toy along the floor, rather than a static toy. The cataracts were immature in both eyes, with the cataract in the left eye being denser than the right eye. While the anterior parts of her lenses were clear, the cataracts were occupying most of the central axis, significantly reducing her vision. It was very likely to get worse and cause inflammation in her eyes if not treated, which we naturally wanted to avoid.

“The surgery was a massive success and Kafka came out with flying colours. All her follow up appointments have gone very well and we are over the moon that we were able to save the sight of yet another adorable kitten.”

James concluded: “There is such a big difference to Kafka’s wellbeing ever since she’s had the surgery. After a few days of getting used to having a cone around her neck we ventured outside and it was such a joy to see her chasing after the ants again and running up to people who were far away to say hello. We cannot thank the team at Eastcott enough for helping us get our little Kafka her sight back.”

Eastcott offers expert care in cardiology, dentistry, neurology, internal medicine, ophthalmology, oral and maxillofacial surgery, oncology, orthopaedics, soft tissue surgery, laparoscopy, thoracoscopy, diagnostic imaging and CT, anaesthesia and analgesia and has its own emergency and critical care centre.