For Jack the Cat, Happiness at Last

Jack was cranky the February morning he was brought to the NC State Veterinary Hospital, but that was nothing new.

When Kirstin Smith first saw Jack, he was cranky then, too. Smith, who moved to North Carolina in 2013 from New Jersey, found him in her home state. Smith, who ran a rodent rescue in New Jersey, heard about a rescue cat that needed a good home, got in her car and drove 500 miles to adopt him. He had lived in a cage with the vet for a full year, Smith said.

“He was skinny and moody,” she said. “But when I held him, he was fine.”

Jack has been slow to socialize with the other animals in Smith’s home — she has cats and dogs — but he has recently started warming up to them. But just as his life was going more smoothly, Smith became concerned. “He’s always been a drooler when he’s relaxed,” she said.  “But around Thanksgiving he was doing it more than usual.”

Smith noticed redness and scabbing around his mouth. At times, the scab would bleed. She anticipated a possible dental problem and took Jack to see a local veterinarian.

She was dismayed to learn that Jack had an oral tumor. A biopsy on the lower left jaw at the gumline identified an ameloblastoma, a rare disorder of the jaw involving abnormal tissue growth. The resulting tumors or cysts are usually not malignant, but the tissue growth may be aggressive. In January, Jack was referred to the NC State Veterinary Hospital’s oncology service.

Jack’s biopsy revealed a rare disorder of the jaw involving abnormal tissue growth.

The oncology team raised a red flag. Ameloblastoma is rare in cats and another possibility was squamous cell cancer, another type of locally aggressive tumor that’s much more common for felines. It is also much more dangerous.

Further testing would be necessary to determine if the tumor was malignant and if Jack was a good candidate for surgery if an ameloblastoma was confirmed.

Smith faced a dilemma. She had recently spent a large amount of money on another one of her cats, a hairless named Jinx, who had a herniated diaphragm. Jinx had not survived, and now Smith was facing the expense of treating Jack.

It is for owners like Smith that the Petco Foundation and Blue Buffalo have created cancer treatment funds at leading veterinary hospitals like NC State. The treatment funds help owners like Smith defray the cost of treating companion animal cancers. These generous investments help pet parents focus on providing the best possible care for their pets rather than the cost of care. Smith and her cat were perfect candidates.

“The Petco Foundation grant was amazing,” Smith says. “I actually adopted my dog Oscar at a Petco event four years ago.”

Thanks to assistance from the Petco Foundation and Blue Buffalo Cancer Treatment Fund, Jack benefitted from the world-class care available at the NC State Veterinary Hospital. His tumor turned out not to be a squamous cell cancer and the ameloblastoma was surgically removed by the hospital’s dental service.

It’s just the kind of break Jack has long deserved.

~Steve Volstad/NC State Veterinary Medicine