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Mr Norris – Loving Life After a Birth Defect

The Early Days – The Norris Story Begins

Mr Norris was born to a mother cat on her 5th litter in succession. The litter was large at 7 kittens. 2 were born with deformities Mr Norris being one, the other his sister however hers was very minor and she quickly outgrew it. Mr Norris however was born with what is known as a Nasal Occlusion or as people would most likely refer to it, a cleft palate.

Immediately on delivery, once we cleaned him up it, was apparent he would never be able to feed from his mum due to the front right portion of his upper lip, palate and gums being missing.

Norris had to be fed from a syringe with a special elongated teat

Norris had to be fed from a syringe with a special elongated teatWe had to then work out the best possible way to feed him by hand. We tried a bottle to see what would happen but he couldnt latch properly and what he did take in went up his nasal cavity and out through his nose.

With a bit of thought and adaptation we got an elongated teat and attached it to a syringe allowing him to use his tongue to grip the teat and suck with some help in the form of gentle pressure on the syringe. It worked…. And we carried on this until he was a few weeks old and we could try him on some soft foods.

When he was about 2 weeks old we took him along to our vets for an assessment and a chat over his options. Their outlook was very bleak and they didnt think he would survive. Their advice was to euthanize him.

However in true Sunny Harbour style we couldn’t give up at the first hurdle. So, we persevered. As time went on he got stronger and grew well. His teeth grew in and we watched carefully to make sure they didn’t cause anymore damage.

We probably syringe fed him much later than with a normal kitten but in doing so he was more ready to chew the mousse kitten food we had for him. This was to be one of our stumbling blocks. Would he fail to be able to eat on his own? Were the vets right?

Thankfully he mastered how to eat solid, soft foods very quickly and in all other ways he was just a regular, happy, kitten.

At around 10 weeks of age he joined our permanent residents and copied them in every way. He taught himself how to eat both soft and hard foods however the one problem we had was that when he ate some food would go up through the wide open nasal passage and lodge there.

Norris at 2 days old. You can clearly see the deformity

Norris at 2 days old. You can clearly see the deformity

The result of this was a constant thick mucous discharge from his nose. We chatted to our vets about this but we were told if he survived nothing could be done to correct the deformity until he was around 1 year old and fully grown. Until then we just needed to manage things as best we could by keeping it as clean as possible and treating with antibiotics as needed for infection. We continued to do so until just after his 1st birthday.

After taking in Gumball a cat with an overshot jaw we saw a specialist surgeon, Norman, who we also spoke to about Mr Norris. He agreed to see Mr Norris, assess him and see what could be done to help him.

Part 2 – The Norris Story – Time for Surgery

On reaching just past his 1st birthday Mr Norris was seen by specialist surgeon Norman of Dental Vets who assessed his deformity and said it was the most severe deformity he had seen at his clinic in a cat. The image below shows the scale of his deformity.


These show images taken under sedation and x rays. You can clearly see the missing segments and teeth displacement.

He felt he could help and took Mr Norris in for surgery. That day he removed 7 teeth plus the upper canine to allieviate the strain on the gums and front area of the face. He also cut back the bottom canines to ensure that they could not cause any physical damage to the upper jaw and nasal area and performed root canal work on those teeth. He also attempted a repair of the open nostril area to seal off the passageway a little to protect the nasal cavity.

Mr Norris at 6 months old. You can clearly see the canine's causing an issue with his upper lip and open nostril

Mr Norris at 6 months old. You can clearly see the canine’s causing an issue with his upper lip and open nostril

It turned out that Mr Norris is also lacking the honeycomb structure of bone in his nose which is designed to stop foreign objects going up the nose. So by blocking it off partially it should help stop food going up.

Mr Norris returned home the same day and was so so brave despite the obvious pain he was in. We felt so bad for our wee boy but we knew we were doing this to make his life better.

After 3 weeks of care and rest the dental surgery was a success, however the repair to the nasal cavity failed.

This was going to be a problem to fix and we were all disheartened that he had gone through the long journey as well as this big procedure and part of it had failed. Whilst the work done cetainly improved things we needed a new plan.

We cannot praise Mr Norris’ surgeon, Dr Johnson, enough. He has pulled out all the stops and discussed his case with plastic surgeons and facial specialists from all over the world to find a workable solution and plan for a 2nd surgery. This would lessen the gap left by the deformity, in turn, lessening or removing the constant inflammation and infection in the nasal passage.

On 12th March 2015 after international input from veterinary soft tissue and maxillofacial surgeons Mr Norris underwent reconstruction of his deformity to seal off the upper lip area, reduce the nasal opening and close the gap in the palate.  This surgery was performed by leading soft tissue expert Liz Welsh of Vets Now Referrals with Norman Johnson at his Dental Vets clinic in North Berwick.

Mr Norris the day after surgery.

Mr Norris the day after surgery.

It has taken a few months but Mr Norris has now recovered at Sunny Harbour Cat Rescue, his appearance remarkably different and his surgeons anticipate a full recovery and a much improved quality of life.  In reality Mr Norris has gone from strength to strength and his determination to not only live but to thrive shines through every single day he is with us.

Mr Norris is a very special boy and those who have had the joy of meeting him will know how special he truly is.

Nothing phases this amazing little cat and we are so very proud of him and all that he has achieved.  Not once has he ever let his deformity hold him back.  After much deliberation we decided that Mr Norris would be staying with us here at Sunny Harbour Cat Rescue as rehoming him would have been very very difficult as so many people would love to adopt him.  In this way he becomes “The Peoples Cat” and he thoroughly enjoys his outings meeting his fans and new friends and as always, takes everything in his stride.

Sarah & Paul Ross
Co Founders

You can continue to follow Mr Norris’s story and his recent antics by joining his Facebook page using the link below.


Mr Norris all recovered from his surgery. He is doing great and is back to his usual happy go lucky self

Mr Norris all recovered from his surgery. He is doing great and is back to his usual happy go lucky self

On the 17th August 2015 Mr Norris found himself voted Royal Canin’s Rescue Cat of the Year 2015 thanks to his amazing and very loyal fans.

An honour he so very much deserves and is a wonderful mark of his incredible bravery throughout his life.  Well done little man and HUGE thanks to everyone who voted for our wee boy.  Without you he would not have achieved this amazing title.

Rescue Cat of the Year 2015