UF, rescue group team up to treat cat with no eyelids

Bayou with care team

Bayou, a rescued cat born with no eyelids, is shown with members of his UF care team following a check-up and suture removal on Oct. 14. UF veterinary ophthalmologists surgically recreated Bayou’s eyelids, which should give him the ability to have a normal life. (Photo by Sarah Carey)

From a shelter in Alabama where he faced almost certain euthanasia, a 3-month-old cat named Bayou, born without eyelids, luckily made it south to Gainesville in June, thanks to a rescue group and the University of Florida’s Veterinary Community Outreach Program, which intervened to save him.

With funding through a program the VCOP administers for special needs shelter animals, Bayou received surgery to recreate his eyelids. Ophthalmology specialists at the UF Veterinary Hospitals conducted the procedure, which should give Bayou the ability to have a normal life.

Helping Alachua’s Animals Requiring Treatment and Surgery, or HAARTS, is a fund administered through the VCOP and used for animals that are homeless in shelters and deemed otherwise adoptable to receive needed medical procedures. Following a successful recheck and suture removal in late October, Bayou is back in the care of Gainesville Pet Rescue, now just waiting for his permanent home.

Dr. Kelly Harrison is a clinical instructor with the VCOP, which works closely with area rescue groups. She had been contacted by the former director of the Alabama shelter, who was desperate to find help for the cat.

Harrison knew that Gainesville Pet Rescue had recently helped with a litter of kittens that suffered from eyelid agenesis — the same condition Bayou had. But she also knew the situation had been difficult for all involved.

“It was a long road for the rescue group and for the kittens,” said Harrison. Knowing this, she was at first reluctant to ask the rescue group for assistance again. But she did anyway.

“Amazingly, the group was more than happy to help Bayou,” Harrison said. “The shelter in Alabama facilitated his transport and delivered him directly to Gainesville Pet Rescue. From there, the rescue group took over his care. This group really steps up when it comes to these difficult cases. They are an awesome group to work with.”

Eyelid agenesis can be a painful condition and if not corrected would result in chronic dry, painful eyes, said Dr. Brian DiGangi, a clinical assistant professor of shelter medicine with the VCOP.

Dr. David Whitley and Dr. Bianca Martins of the UF Veterinary Hospital’s ophthalmology service, performed Bayou’s procedure.

“Now he should go on to live a normal pain free life,” DiGangi said. “His foster mom is in love with him and he apparently has quite the following on Instagram – #bayouthekitten.”

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