A kitten with a lion heart


Written by Samantha Moller and photography by Elzabe Carter

In February 2015, Wollies Animal Project in Pretoria North was called in to help with a kitten found at a factory. Unable to suckle properly, the tiny black kitten had been rejected by his mother and would have starved if he hadn’t have been rescued. He was taken to Silverton veterinarian, Dr Moose, who estimated him to be just one week old – and diagnosed him with a cleft palate and cleft lip.

Furry fighter

The kitten, which they named after the vet (Moose), would need bottle-feeding every few hours, around the clock. Catz R Us SA found a foster mom – Mariaan Claassens – to bottle-feed him until he could eat by himself. For the next four weeks, Moose thrived in his foster home until ready for his first procedure. Unfortunately, this procedure was unsuccessful and his face collapsed. Nevertheless, Moose was so full of spirit and life, and just kept on going.

In April 2015, Moose was adopted by his new forever mommy, Bernice Mong, a Catz R Us SA volunteer, who took him to Dr Peter Caldwell at Old Chapel Veterinary Clinic. Each week, Moose was assessed in preparation for his reconstructive surgery to fix his face.

Two months later, Moose went in for three more procedures: a nose was built to improve his breathing, then the cleft was closed and construction of the transitional flap for his lip and nose was completed. During this time Moose spent a month in hospital before he went home to be nebulised twice daily in a nebulising box donated by Wollies Animal Project. He has weekly visits to Dr Caldwell for ongoing check-ups and nose cleans; Moose is prone to infections due to mucous plugs and regular check-ups keep him healthy and avoid infection. He currently has one nasal cavity on his face, and later in 2016 a septum (nasal bridge) with two nasal cavities will be constructed to ease breathing and reduce mucus build-up. Regardless of whether he has one nostril or two, Moose is a happy, healthy cat who does all the things other cats can do, from eating to playing.

Moose has come a long way since his journey began in early 2015. His main priority remains creating awareness for special needs animals but, first and foremost, the importance of sterilisation of pets. Moose is very proud to have led by example and has already been neutered. You can follow Moose’s adventures and progress on Facebook at: ‘Moose the Cleft Palate Kitten’.

A bit from Bernice Mong…

Our Moose is full of personality. In our home, he’s the youngest of a number of fur kids and always manages to be the centre of attention. He is so confident that he fears nothing, and thrives on annoying the older cats by being in their personal space. His all-time favourite toy and game is playing fetch with his orange mouse. He enjoys strutting his stuff when walking on a leash and thrives on receiving attention. When it is time to be nebulised he very happily goes into the box but – oh boy! – can he put up a fight when his nose needs wiping. Every day with Moose is entertaining. In the face of adversity, his spirit to enjoy life and make the most of every day is inspirational and proves how we all have a purpose in life.