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By Susan DiMeo, President, PAWS
Published: January 16, 2012

Late this past summer, Protection of Animals in Wakefield Society, Inc. (PAWS) took in a young, pregnant cat, who we named Juliet. She had three healthy kittens and raised them very well. However, as Juliet was nursing and raising her kittens, her foster mom noticed that Juliet often seemed uncomfortable, and that her breathing seemed fast and shallow. She was also very thin, although she ate with a hearty appetite. Everything else seemed okay, so the foster mom assumed it was just slow, post-partum recovery, and kept an eye on the cat to be sure her symptoms did not get worse.

Once the kittens were grown, it was Juliet's turn to be spayed and prepared for adoption. During her examination, her vet, Dr. Linda Siperstein, felt something was odd about Juliet's anatomy, and soon realized that she had a medical condition called a diaphragmatic hernia. Juliet had an opening between her chest and abdomen, and some of her abdominal organs were displaced to her chest! Everyone was amazed that Juliet was able to carry and raise her kittens safely and attentively under such difficult physical limitations.

Juliet’s condition could only be corrected by major surgery. And, in this case, she faced a difficult surgery that most vets do not often encounter. However, Dr. Siperstein, in consultation with Dr. Samantha Simonelli and VCA Medical Director, Dr. David Rousseau, was willing to give it a try. And although most animal rescue organizations hesitate to perform difficult medical surgeries or treatments because of the high cost and tight budget constraints, PAWS opted to invest in Juliet’s welfare.

During the surgery, Dr. Siperstein discovered that not only were most of Juliet’s intestines up in her chest, but so was part of her liver, leaving little room for her heart and lungs to function properly. However, once all the parts were put in the right place and the opening between her chest and abdomen was closed, Juliet's ability to breathe immediately improved!

Juliet recovered very well over the next couple of weeks. She was kept in a quiet room, wearing an Elizabethan collar, and she was restrained from jumping or climbing, so as to prevent stress on the incision.

It has been about two months since her operation, and Juliet is now enjoying feeling well for perhaps the first time in her life. She can breathe normally, she can eat without impeding her breathing, she’s learning to enjoy being picked up (an activity which previously was cause for much discomfort), and she has begun to play with cat toys and behave like a typical, young adult cat. This charming little survivor with a big personality is now available for adoption, and will make a wonderful pet for the lucky person who takes her home.

Juliet is a rare case, but she’s not the only PAWS pet that needs extra care. Many of the animals PAWS takes in require some level of diagnostics, dentals, or treatment for injuries. Recent intakes include an abandoned pet with digestive problems, a stray with several broken teeth, and a surrendered senior cat with multiple medical issues. Although adoption fees are designed to help cover the most basic care, such as spay/neuter and vaccinations, they certainly do not cover medical emergencies or major surgery. It is the generosity of VCA Wakefield Animal Hospital and kind donations from the public that make it possible for PAWS to provide the medical care these animals need.

PAWS is an all-volunteer, non-profit animal welfare organization, founded in Wakefield in 1982 by Esther Nowell. Serving many communities north of Boston, PAWS’ mission is to promote and protect the rights and well-being of all domestic animals and wildlife, and foster greater understanding of animal welfare and animal rights through education.

Financial times are tough and this has led to an increase in the number of animals that have been surrendered or abandoned by their owners over the last few years. PAWS prides itself on the extraordinary care provided for all the pets who come through their care. Please remember PAWS and the many animals served locally! You can mail a check, payable to PAWS, to Juliet’s Fund, 383R Lowell St., Suite 5, Wakefield, MA 01880. Or donate via PayPal on the PAWS website:

If you are interested in meeting Juliet or other pets available for adoption or would like to learn about volunteer or fostering opportunities, contact PAWS at (781) 246-6111 or [email protected]