George, a stray grey tabby cat.
A stray grey tabby cat named George has become a pet project for a Regina neighbourhood. Supplied photo.

Eye surgery gives stray cat a new outlook on life

Two years ago, a stray grey tabby cat showed up in a neighbourhood in south Regina, Sask. Since then, “George” has stolen the hearts of many people there — including Christine Holzer.

By Jessica Colby
George, post-recovery. Supplied photo.

“I feed birds and squirrels, so there’s a lot of food and fresh water out all the time. I’m sure the birds probably attracted him to my yard,” says Holzer. “He’s been our neighbourhood cat for the last couple of years.”

When George first showed up near Holzer’s house, he looked like he had been on his own in the streets for a while. He was very hungry, had visible ear mites — which can look like dirt in a cat’s ear and cause excessive itching — and his fur was dishevelled.

Holzer, along with her next-door neighbour and another resident down the street, started to care for George. They provided him with food, water, litter and a place to stay with a bed and heater in the garage during the spring, summer and fall months. The neighbour’s basement became George’s spot in the winter since he didn’t get along with their other two cats.

“We all just have the best interest for the cat,” says Holzer. “We’ve all been contributing food and litter and just making sure he’s okay.”

Holzer began taking George to the vet to get his ear mites treated and for deworming medication since he was having some stomach issues. Then she noticed something was wrong with his left eye — it was swollen and looked like it was infected. After talking with her neighbours, Holzer took George back to the veterinary clinic in October 2021. 

The veterinarian told Holzer that George had a mark on his eye but wasn’t sure if it was caused by a virus or by trauma. Antibiotics and eye drops were prescribed to treat George’s swollen eye, but after two rounds of medication, things didn’t look any better.

“The swelling never went away,” says Holzer, adding that George was still showing signs of discomfort.

Since Holzer didn’t want him to continue scratching at his eye and injuring himself even more, she talked with her veterinarian. As a next step, they sent photos of George’s eye for a veterinary consult with veterinary ophthalmologists at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine’s (WCVM) Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC). 

What Holzer and her veterinarian learned was that George had a condition known as unilateral entropion on his lower eyelid. George’s eyelid was rotated inwards, making his eyelashes face toward his eye. Symptoms of this painful condition include eyelid spasms, squinting, swollen eyelids and eye discharge.

To fix his condition, George needed surgery to remove the excessive skin under the affected eye. The procedure’s next step is to suture and tighten the lower eyelid skin, pulling the eyelid down into a normal position that no longer rolls inward or causes discomfort.

The VMC’s ophthalmology team could do the procedure, but Holzer had to put George’s surgery on hold so she could save up the necessary funds. After saving all summer, Holzer had enough to pay for the surgery, which was booked for September 2022. Holzer’s sister and brother-in-law drove her and George to Saskatoon for his treatment, paid for Holzer’s hotel stay and provided her with additional support.

Since his operation, George has been recovering at Holzer’s home with her husband and their two cats.

“He’s pretty happy now,” says Holzer, who took care of George’s medications and ensured that his medical cone stayed on during his recovery. 

“He comes and sleeps with my other two cats and we all hang out together,” says Holzer. “A happy little cat house.” 

Holzer has fallen in love with the stray cat, who gets along well with her two cats. 

“My favourite thing about Georgie — he loves cuddles. Whenever he comes to the yard, he’ll come in, he’ll lie down and he’ll roll and show his belly. He loves his belly rubs,” says Holzer, who can’t see herself putting George back in the garage once he recovers from surgery.

“He’s such a fantastic boy. He’s got such a great little personality.”