A PORT Elizabeth veterinarian has given a cat a new lease on life after removing a pellet from its spine. Kitty, 11 months old, was paralysed in his back legs after he was shot in the back with a pellet gun a month ago.
Lucky for him his owner, Geraldine Coetzee of Perridgevale, took him to Dr Matthys Terblanche who has been practising for the past 53 years.
Coetzee said she first noticed something was wrong with her beloved cat on a Friday night a few weeks ago. His legs were dangling, he would not eat all weekend and Coetzee spotted some blood on his bed. The following Monday, she took him to Terblanche.
"The vet said he didn't have a slipped disc or hipbone. They then took an X-ray and discovered that Kitty had been shot," she said.
"I was devastated. It is a terribly cruel thing to shoot a cat. I went to the police to open a case but I could not as I did not know who had shot Kitty."
Terblanche said he tested the cat's pain response in its hind legs and while it was good in the one foot it was only faint in the other.
He thought there was at least a glimmer of hope and decided "let's do this".
Terblanche started inquiring about removing the pellet from the cat's spine but could not find anybody in South Africa who had done it before.
There was a similar type of operation done on dachshunds to remove lesions from the spine.
"I thought I am going to try. I have operated on dogs before who had slipped discs. It is very difficult to operate on cats as their bones shatter like glass," he said of the delicate hour-long operation."
Terblanche said he had to use the most delicate of his bone drills to remove thin layers of bone around the pellet until he could reach the object.
"Once I had a way in it was easy to get the pellet out."
He said that because of the delicate nature of the cat's spine he had to remove the pellet and hair embedded in the wound with a tiny instrument normally used to remove foreign objects from animals' eyes.
"Within an hour after the operation Kitty already showed a positive response. He started walking seven days after the procedure. He is a fully functional cat now," Terblanche said.
Coetzee said she was delighted with Kitty's progress.
"The only problem now is that he would try to scratch himself with his one leg and he would miss. The first time it happened it was very funny," she said.
The cat lover said it never crossed her mind to have Kitty put down.
"The operation cost R8300 but Dr Terblanche said I can pay it off. I am just very happy to have Kitty back."
Terblanche qualified in 1960 and has been working in Port Elizabeth since 1968.
"People often ask me why I don't retire. Veterinarian surgery is not only my job, but also my hobby. I really love it," he said.