Once abandoned, kitten born without eyelids now has bright future

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A kitten born without upper eyelids and without a home now is on track to have both, thanks to the efforts of a local veterinary practice and the Humane Society of Huron Valley.

Butterfly the kitten was found alone on busy Washtenaw Avenue near U.S. 23 several months ago when she was only 8 weeks old. A good Samaritan brought her to the Humane Society of Huron Valley (HSHV). Butterfly has been in foster care under medical treatment since April.

“Her condition, technically, is called “bilateral eyelid agenesis,” said Tanya Hilgendorf, president and CEO at HSHV. “It’s a congenital condition that causes pain and, over time, damage and blindness.”

The Humane Society treats many of the 5,000 dogs and cats it takes in each year for a variety of medical conditions. But Butterfly needed special care, which she got from local veterinarian practice BluePearl Veterinary Partners in Ann Arbor.

“Although we have really great vets here a HSHV and treat many conditions ourselves, we sometimes need help with more specialized treatment,” said Hilgendorf. “We reached out to BluePearl because they are a partner of ours and they had a surgeon who could do this more complicated surgery.”

Veterinarians Dr. Gwen Sila and Dr. Michael West from BluePearl Veterinary Partners in Ann Arbor performed the nearly four-hour-long surgery, free of charge, on Monday, July 27.

Sila made incisions with a scalpel and transposed a rectangle of tissue from Butterfly’s upper lip to her eye. The tissue contained a mucous membrane, which is like the inside of an eyelid. That side was placed against Butterfly’s eyeball and Sila then used tiny sutures, to sew the new eyelid into place.

Sila said overall, the surgery was challenging and took a little bit longer than they anticipated.

“It’s not something we do very often,” Sila said.

Going forward, the two biggest risks for Butterfly are infection and the possibility that the graft will not “take.” The sutures should be taken out in two weeks.

However, she’s already on the right path.

On July 29, Butterfly was at the HSHV for a recheck with a veterinarian and is already sleeping with her new eyelids closed.

Butterfly will be in foster care for several more weeks before going up for adoption, according to Hilgendorf. She is expected to make a full recovery, live comfortably, be able to blink, close her eyes voluntarily and make tears.

“Despite her challenges, Butterfly was and continues to be a very loving and playful kitten,” said Hilgendorf. “If someone is interested in adopting, they can put in an application by calling our Adoptions team at (734) 662-5585 or find more information at”

Hilgendorf said whoever adopts Butterfly has to be aware and committed to her.

“If all goes well, Butterfly will not need ongoing care,” said Hilgendorf. “But we are unsure at this time.”

There are also many other kittens, among other animals, available for adoption for people to consider.

If people are not able to adopt but are interested in supporting animals like Butterfly, they can donate to HSHV’s foster or medical treatment program, or even consider becoming a foster parent, Hilgendorf said.

“Though this sounds like an extraordinary story, things like this happen every day at HSHV,” said Hilgendorf. “We depend on the community in many ways to save every life possible, which is why we can achieve a 94% save rate.”

Jack Walsworth is an intern reporter for The Ann Arbor News. Contact him via email at or follow him on Twitter.