Titus, The Mighty Kitten


Titus. A Book in the Bible was addressed to him “The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to Titus”. Shakespeare penned a tragedy about “Titus Andronicus”. The “Urban Dictionary” states that “Titus” is an “awesome” name , though uncommon. Among other gifts, the dictionary says that bearers of the name “Titus”   are smart thinkers, courteous, and once a friend, will stay a good friend. Phew. That’s a lot to live up to. The furry mound in front of me didn’t seem a match for “Titus”. “Nondescript” is what came to my mind. The kitten was greyish, dirty, and crawling with fleas. He weighed in at 1.4 pounds.


The little lump looked up and meowed. I took in the fact that his lower lip had been peeled down, away from jaw bone and teeth and was just hanging where his tiny chin should have been. You could see where the right and left sides of the mandible met in the middle. We refer to this as a degloving injury, when the skin is completely torn away from the underlying tissue. (The damage is likened to how one might peel off a long pair of gloves.). Degloving injuries are most common to legs, arms and tails.


I looked up at the owner. A slender young man, he had remained quiet so far. The chart stated that he had found the kitten. As I scooped Titus up I felt something sticky and immediately turned the kitten on his side. I was horrified to note a pus-encrusted open wound that covered over a third of the kitten’s underbelly. What I had mistaken for litter on his feet were also deep crusts embedded in his paw pads. I set “Titus” back on the table and the scrawny little thing pounced in play at my fingers! I found my voice. “Is he actually eating for you?” I asked.


“Oh, yes!” his young owner answered eagerly. “Will he get better?”


I walked him through the long road to recovery this kitten faced. Surgery to paste his lip back onto his face. Surgery on the belly wound. Possible internal injuries or infection from what had probably been a dog attack. A poor surgical candidate given his low weight, malnutrition, and probable weakness from anemia caused by blood-sucking fleas. The very real possibility of an underlying infection from the Feline Leukemia or Feline AIDS viruses, as so many cats in the feral cat colonies around Merced are infected. The odds were stacked against Titus. The young man who found him didn’t have other pets and had not been looking for one. Would he be interested or prepared to take on the medical needs of a high risk, straight-off-the-streets kitten? He said yes.


Titus donated a tiny amount of blood and tested negative for Leukemia and the FIV virus. We anesthetized him with a safe gas anesthetic, allowing him to breathe himself to sleep. Anesthesia was necessary to fully examine and treat his wounds. We did not want to cause any additional pain which might provoke shock in such an already over-stressed patient.


To reattach his lip onto his face tiny suture on a tiny needle was threaded right through his jaw. The wound on his abdomen was ugly. Pus oozed around the edges of the large scab. The abdominal wall was exposed and so transparent we could see through his belly button. But the wall was intact. All four paws were damaged, with parts of the pads sheared off.  Lucky for Titus (again!) there was no evidence of broken bones.  We gently cleaned out the debris and bandaged each little paw.  Closing the large gaping would over his belly wasn’t possible – when I attempted to suture the skin together it looked like a cartoon character whose belt has been cinched so tightly the rest of the body will burst. We removed that stitch. Finally I just took a tiny pad of skin dressing used in people for bed sores and covered the hole.


We saw Titus back every 3 days, then every 5, and finally 10 days apart. Youth and love worked its magic and together we marveled as his paws healed, his lip reattached to his face and slowly his skin regrew to cover his tummy. In my experience, the average kitten gains about a pound a month. Imagine my delight when I saw Titus back for his last vaccinations and realized that in just 9 weeks he had grown to be a 5.4 pound kitten, with a beautiful silver shaded grey coat and always, always that mischievous kitten pounce that put a smile on all our faces.


Christine B. McFadden, DVM


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