Joy at rescue kitty's cancer operation success

Cape Town - It looks like a happy ending for Cocopops the rescue kitty after an operation to remove a very rare and aggressive oral tumour was a roaring success.

"She struggled to breathe and yawn a week after the operation. Now she is playing and biting us. She is so loveable," her 17-year-old owner Suné Harris told News24 on Monday.

Harris, who is in matric, rescued Cocopops from between boxes in a storeroom at her school in February.

What was supposed to be happily ever after for Harris and Cocopops soon turned to fear and worry when the cat was diagnosed with a feline inductive odontogenic tumour.

There are apparently only a handful of reported studies of this tumour worldwide.

The kitten, who is about 6 or 7 months old, was referred to Dr Gerhard Steenkamp, a senior veterinary science lecturer at the University of Pretoria.

Steenkamp had never had a case like this before, but was aware that surgery had cured cases described in academic literature.

He performed an operation on July 9 and later got results back confirming that the whole tumour had been removed.

"The surgery was very delicate as I removed most of her upper jaw on that side, to the point where the bone that supports the eye was also removed," Steenkamp told News24.

"As I have done in dogs, I was able to create a support for the eye and she is using it normally. Only four years ago, I would have removed the eye in cases like this, but with some experience and trust from clients I have now developed a technique to save these eyes."

He said the kitten’s future looked bright.

"At this point I am very pleased with the outcome and do not expect any surprises."

Harris said she was relieved.

"It was very stressful and we didn’t know how much time we would have with her."

The schoolgirl will be studying bio-kinetics at the University of Johannesburg next year, but won’t be leaving her beloved Cocopops behind.

The family has bought a house for her nearby and the kitten will be living there.

Another cat that Harris rescued, Biskuit, will keep Cocopops company during the day.