When a tiny kitten named Cluck was brought to a rescue organization in Los Angeles, California, in late October, she was a little bit different from her four siblings and their feral cat mama.
Cluck, as it turned out, had an imperforate anus. This incredibly rare condition is when "the pouch at the end of the GI tract and the anal membrane fail to open," explained Dr. Bruce Kornreich of the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.
This form of "atresia ani" (or congenital anomaly of the anus) can leave cats constipated, Kornreich said, as well as cause painful defecation, loss of appetite, depression, vomiting, dehydration, and abdominal distention in the first few weeks of life.
"The GI tract swells so much that it can get distended where it becomes dysfunctional," he described. When it comes to kittens who have an imperforate anus, treatment and surgery is necessary for survival, Kornreich added.
Now 3 weeks old, Cluck is still under her mama's care at Kitty Bungalow: Charm School for Wayward Cats as she gets ready for the risky but necessary procedure. "Her mama continues to stimulate her," explained Shawn Simons, the headmistress and founder of Kitty Bungalow. "We aren't completely certain if she is eliminating some waste via her urethra." (In fact, Cluck got her name from the fact that chickens go to the bathroom and lay eggs from the same place—their cloaca.)
Cluck's procedure will be performed at the Animal Specialty and Emergency Center in Santa Monica. Surgeon Dr. Mary Sommerville and the staff at Kitty Bungalow have been doing "as much pre-surgery investigation as possible" to the outcomes, Simons said.
"The truth is, until they open her up, we really won't know how complicated this will be. If it is just a matter of poking a hole in the skin effectively and connecting the sphincter, that would be the best [case scenario]," Simons noted, adding that the sphincter may have to be created, or pulled down if it is far up in Cluck's abdomen.
"Once that is done, the question will remain if her sphincter muscles are active," Simons continued. "She may have trouble controlling those muscles, or she could continue to have problems as she grows, which could require a second surgery."
Still, Simons remains hopeful that all will go well, and Cluck will get the happy, healthy, carefree kitten life she deserves.
For those who want to help out with Cluck's medical expenses, you can donate here.
Image via Kitty Bungalow: Charm School for Wayward Cats
Read more: 6 Kitten Health Issues to Watch For