September 19, 2020

Lazarus gets a second chance

Lazarus the Cat, also known as the Vampire Cat, is a very special cat who was given a second chance at life and a loving home by Cindy. She was kind enough to share with us the story of Lazarus the vampire cat.

A little stray kitten was found wandering around an apartment complex in Johnson City, Tennessee by an East Tennessee State University (ETSU) student. She could tell the kitten was in rough shape, but checked with the neighborhood to see if anyone was missing the little guy. After being unsuccessful in finding the kitten’s home, she called me. I am a professor at ETSU in the Special Education program. I also participate in animal rescue. I agreed to take the kitten and to attend to what appeared to be obvious yet mysterious medical needs. The kitten was missing a nose! The big question was, “did someone do this to the kitten?” The next big question became, “will the vets suggest that this kitten be euthanized?” The whole way to the vet’s office I cried thinking that the outcome would not be desirable. The receptionist asked for the kitten’s name. A name? I can’t name a kitten that the vet would likely say put down. So, when they came out to get him, they called for “stray.” 

Upon examination by the vet, it was determined that the roof of the kitten’s mouth displayed exposed bone. He was malnourished, infested with fleas and had a horrible infection. Although the kitten was in poor health, the vet said the best words! “If the kitten has survived this long, then why not give him a chance.” So that’s what we did. I brought him home with some antibiotics and a rough plan of care. He also earned his name, Lazarus, given that he had a second chance at life. Within a week and a half of antibiotics and high quality food, pink tissue started to grow on the roof of his mouth. Lazarus was approximately 10 weeks old. 

Lazarus continued to have problems with infections and as his top K9 teeth grew in, they were quickly identified as abscessed or infected. One of the K9 teeth was removed by his local vet, Sally MacLane of Appalachian Animal Hospital. The other tooth was lodged too deep in his very tender mouth. Dr. MacLane referred him to the University of Tennessee Veterinary School to meet with a soft tissue surgeon. At UT, Lazarus was clearly identified as having a primary cleft palate and a surgical plan was devised. Lazarus had surgery to remove the final K9 and infection from his mouth. A cleft repair was opted out of given the advice of the surgeon who stated that there was no medical reason for it at this point and given the strength of Lazarus’ tongue, he would likely destroy the repair anyways. Today he is relatively healthy. He sleeps with a vaporizer every night to keep his nasal passages moist. Otherwise, he gets nose bleeds. He sometimes gets sinus infections and has to go on antibiotics. Otherwise, he is like his other three kitty brothers who live with him. 

How old is he now?

Lazarus is now around a year and half old.
How has he adapted to daily life?

Laz’s cleft palate needs are minimal. He has adapted the way he eats (discussed below). I often check his nasal passages, which are located on the roof of his mouth, to ensure they are clear. He sneezes when he needs to clear them. Most of the time, he takes care of those needs. He sleeps with a vaporizer keeping his nasal passages moist so they won’t bleed. Otherwise, he is like any other cat in his needs.
How does he interact with the other animals in your family?

He started out like any other kitten being added to the family. The reaction of the other animals was, “Get this annoying kitten away from me!” Now that he has gotten older, he has mellowed out. He still plays hard with the other cats, but now they share beds, clean, and love each other. They see him no differently than they do their other kitty sibs.

How does he eat and what does he eat?  How is his appetite?

Lazarus eats hard food because it is less likely to be aspirated. Given that he is missing his top K9 teeth, it is difficult for him to hold food in his mouth, so he has adapted to the challenge. His very unique, curled tongue flips up the food and while holding his head back, he chews. He has a healthy appetite and loves getting treats!
Does he run and play like any other cat?

Lazarus loves to play! He chases his sibs. He bats at his toys. His favorite toy just happens to be an electrical plug cover that he discovered. His desire to run and play in indistinguishable from that of his kitty sibs.


What is a typical day like for Lazarus?

First and foremost, Lazarus is a cat like any other cat! He eats, sleeps, plays, and then sleeps some more! He has come accustomed to having his picture taken by me so that I can share him with his Facebook community at Care for Lazarus ( He is also a really good traveler because he goes out into the community to meet people and to talk to groups about accepting others who may appear different.


What has Lazarus taught you? How has he changed your life?

When I met Lazarus for the first time, I never imagined the impact he would have on my life. He is such an inspiration to me. He doesn’t let anything hold him back. He was abandoned and on his last leg, but he was a survivor! This little gray cat has an amazing perseverance.  When I first created his Facebook site, it was to reach out for help and advice. Soon, I found that by telling his story and by sharing his life, he too could have an impact on other people’s lives. He has a remarkable community of friends and supporters. We are contacted almost daily by family members of people with cleft palates or friends who have made a connection with Laz telling us how he brightens their days or makes them feel not so alone in this world. Wow! Every day I get Laz’s love, but through social media, other people have to! It has been a really powerful process. Lazarus is a blessing to everyone he meets! I have been blessed most of all by having him in my life.
What do you think the future holds for Lazarus?

Lazarus wants to give back! He has two service initiatives that we are currently running.  The first is an educational program in which Laz and I go into classrooms and talk to students about how unique characteristics make us special and we are more alike than different. We also talk about caring for our animals. The second project is Laz’s Pet Supply Challenge. It is an international project in which a team of volunteers across the United States and into other countries collect pet supplies to be donated to their area shelters or animal groups. We are currently getting this project off the ground and already have 21 partners including three countries. We would love to have more people join Laz’s team. We hope to continue to find ways to tell our story! Currently Lazarus has been entered in Modern Cat’s Star Cat contest, which if he were to win he would get a 2-page spread to share his story. He can be voted for at Lazarus’ future is bright! Continue to follow the wonderful things that are to come from him! 

Listen the story of Oskar the Blind Cat!

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