When a good Samaritan brought a cat into Nick Silverman’s Brooklyn animal clinic in June 2017, not only did the veterinarian want to provide the bedraggled feline with medical care, he and his wife, Bess Ferguson — who is also a vet — decided to help the fragile feline by giving her a foster home. “She was found in an apartment building nearby and she was not in the best shape,” explains Bess. “She was covered in mats with patches of missing fur, and she was extremely malnourished.”
With the help of the clinic’s employees, Bess and Nick named the disheveled cat Aladdina, an ode to her Persian heritage. “The office staff wanted a Persian-ish name and Aladdin was the first one they came up with,” explains Bess. “Once they realized she was a girl, they added an ‘a’ to the end.”
The couple determined that Aladdina, or Deeny for short, was most likely born in June 2015, making her approximately two years old when she was brought into the clinic, and she had suffered some sort of trauma to her jaw that made it practically impossible for her to eat unassisted.
“Initially, we allowed her to eat on her own from a bowl, but she mostly just smashed her face into the bowl and got food all over the place,” says Bess. Consequently, Aladdina began to lose weight from her already malnourished frame, dropping to approximately two pounds before the couple started feeding her through a large catheter attached to a syringe.
At the same time, Bess and Nick were treating Aladdina for a terrible case of ringworm that covered the young cat’s body with the itchy and extremely contagious fungal infection. “Basically every inch of her body from the neck down was hairless with round lesions,” remembers Bess. “We treated her with a combination of oral anti-fungal drugs, extremely smelly lyme-sulfur dips, anti-fungal shampoos, and topical anti-fungal medications.”
Because ringworm spreads very easily, Aladdina had to be kept in isolation for several weeks until she was completely free from the fungus. Fortunately, after a couple of months, Aladdina’s ringworm was gone and she’d gained a considerable amount of weight, reaching 5.5 pounds.
However, she was still unable to eat her own, requiring Nick to syringe feed her multiple times a day, so the couple took Aladdina in for a CT scan to get a better understanding of the injury to her jaw. “They found that she had an old healed fracture of her right temporomandibular joint,” explains Bess. “The joint was fused together which prevented her from opening or closing her mouth.”
While doctors determined the fracture was the result of some sort of trauma — possibly abuse or an accident — no one could say for sure how Aladdina received the injury. “We like to think it was an accident and if anyone was involved, they just didn’t realize the damage that was done,” says Bess. Regardless of the fracture’s cause, Bess and Nick learned that Aladdina could probably regain the ability to open and her close her mouth if she had a piece of her lower jaw surgically removed.
In April 2018, Aladdina had the surgery to repair her jaw, and three months later, she’s made a remarkable recovery. “It’s really been an incredible change for her,” says Bess. “She is now able to eat on her own, and we no longer have to syringe feed her, though this makes Nick a little sad as the twice daily syringe feeding was his and Deeny’s bonding time.”
Today, Aladdina is a happy and active three-year-old cat who has plenty of energy to indulge in her favorite pastimes. “Playing with ribbon toys is her favorite by far,” says Bess. “She absolutely loves making biscuits. She usually does it on or near her humans, and she purrs very loudly the entire time with her eyes mostly closed.”
Not surprisingly, Aladdina — who was incredibly malnourished when she was rescued from an apartment building a little over a year ago — is obsessed with food, although meal times have gotten a little easier since she started eating on her own. “When we were syringe feeding her, she was sometimes so unable to contain her excitement that she would climb up Nick’s leg to the counter where he fed her, and scream in his face while he was putting the food into the syringe,” explains Bess. “She also seems to derive some odd pleasure from sneezing in our faces.”
Without a doubt, Aladdina is an incredibly unique and resilient cat, and while it’s impossible to know exactly what her life was like before she was rescued by a good Samaritan, Bess believes this special girl definitely didn’t get the attention and care she deserved. “Many times, neglect isn’t intentional — an owner is elderly or handicapped in some way,” says Bess, “and sometimes surrendering a pet is an extremely difficult emotional decision. But if a cat is suffering because of neglect, whether intentional or not, alternative options should be sought.”
Fortunately for Aladdina, she is no longer suffering, having found the perfect home with a loving couple that has spent the last year of their lives giving her the treatment and affection she went without for far too long. “She was just so sad and pathetic looking when she came in,” says Bess. “We put a lot of work into her rehabilitation, so seeing where she is today compared with where she was one year ago warms our hearts.”
Being veterinarians, Bess and Nick have special skills and knowledge not everyone possesses, but its their kindness, patience, and compassion — qualities anyone can have — that has made them truly exceptional parents to Aladdina.
“She didn’t know how to interact with us or our other pets and she didn’t even act like a cat; so seeing her do normal cat things — eat, grow fur, play, and cuddle is just really, really rewarding,” says Bess. “We’ve just shown this little creature the love and care she deserved and she’s blossomed into this strange, happy, sweet little cat and we’re so happy for her. We love her.”
To learn more about this beautiful cat, you can follow Aladdina on Instagram.