By Kathleen MacKinnon

Have you seen this cat? If not, look again. Every community has stray cats – friendly cats living outdoors – either lost or abandoned. Some people ignore them, hoping they will disappear. Others assume they have a home and maybe feed them when they show up. Others want to do more, but aren’t sure what to do. Stray cats aren’t wild cats (otherwise known as feral cats). Strays are friendly to humans and not well-suited for life on the streets. They deserve to be in loving homes. Here is just one stray cat’s story. If Smokey hadn’t been rescued, his life would have been filled with daily pain, and he may not have lived much longer.


Smokey is one of the lucky ones. He came across a small colony of feral cats that were being cared for by a woman on her property. These cats have all been spayed/neutered and have shelter.

When Smokey showed up, this woman knew within 24 hours that he was a friendly stray cat, not like the feral cats she was caring for. After a day of offering him food, he approached her and even rolled around on the ground to let her pet his belly.

While feeding him, she noticed Smokey had a hard time chewing and swallowing his food. And his mouth was always partially open, as though he was unable to close his mouth. She determined he needed assistance right away. Thinking he might be lost, she searched and posted on social media, but no one seemed to be looking for him. After contacting several rescue organizations who could not help her, she found SPCA NOVA.

Hearing about Smokey’s plight, we arranged to take him in the next day. Right away, we knew he was the sweetest cat who immediately warmed up to human contact. He would rub up against you, asked for endless petting, and even rolled around for you to pet his belly, just as he had done with the woman who had been feeding him.

Our vet discovered he was microchipped, but that was a dead end. He was registered to a small, defunct rescue organization. However, we were able to confirm he is 8 years old.

After examining Smokey, our vet noted that he was malnourished, slightly anemic, and had severe dental disease. His bottom two canine teeth were also leaning inward, touching the roof of his mouth. Because a cat’s lower canine teeth are attached to their jaw, it can be risky to remove these teeth without breaking the jaw, so our vet referred us to a veterinary dentist/oral surgeon.

The veterinary dentist confirmed Smokey’s severe periodontal disease. Not only did he have gingivitis and stomatitis, but he also had severe bone loss in his jaw that caused the misalignment of his teeth. The only way to address his condition was to remove all of his teeth (approximately 30 of them!).

If Smokey’s dental disease had been addressed years ago when he first started showing signs of problems, his condition could have been addressed little by little and prevented it from becoming so severe. We don’t know how long Smokey had been suffering or how long he had been lost or abandoned outdoors, but we could see that he was in a lot of pain.

Removing all of his teeth was a major surgery that could affect his jaw, so it required the skill of an oral surgeon. The estimate was $3500, which included x-rays, anesthesia, removal of all teeth, antibiotics, and pain medication.

$3500 is an astronomical amount for many people who have pets, as well as for a volunteer-based rescue organization like SPCA NOVA. The only alternative though was to put Smokey to sleep. This would have been a sad outcome for such a sweet, loving cat who still has many years ahead of him. So we opted for the surgery.

Smokey has recovered very well; however, it has taken a few weeks to heal, as well as several medications to control the pain and facilitate the healing. Smokey is now eating well, and we are working on getting him to gain some much-needed weight!

In a few more weeks, he will be ready for adoption. You may be surprised to learn that Smokey won’t require any long-term treatment, other than a canned food diet.

Smokey makes himself at home before going in for surgery. Prior to surgery, his mouth was never completely closed because of his dental problems.
Smokey is thin – you can almost see his ribs – because he is malnourished from his time on the streets.
Smokey takes a nap in his foster home before surgery.
Smokey recovers from surgery.
Smokey no longer has any teeth, but he won’t be in constant pain anymore, and he’s still able to eat canned wet food.