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What is Cleft Palate?

Kittens with cleft palate will need surgery to have a chance at recovery. Depending on the extent of the condition, prognosis ranges from good to guarded. Treatment requires a significant emotional and financial commitment, and pet owners often choose to have affected kittens humanely euthanized.

Cleft palate is a birth defect that occurs when the roof of the mouth (palate) fails to properly fuse together and leaves a space between the mouth and the nasal-sinus cavity. This defect can affect the hard, bony portion of the palate, the soft flexible area that is used for swallowing, or both. The condition occurs during gestation and is usually fairly obvious at or soon after birth. Left untreated, it is unlikely that an affected kitten will survive.

Cleft Palate Average Cost

From 579 quotes ranging from $200 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,000

Symptoms of Cleft Palate in Cats

Kittens with cleft palate will exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Running nose
  • Difficulty nursing 
  • Milky discharge from nose when eating
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Weight Loss
  • Slow Growth
  • Decreased Appetite
  • Chronic sinus infections
  • Aspiration pneumonia
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Causes of Cleft Palate in Cats

Cleft palate is usually an inherited congenital disorder. It’s more likely to occur in purebred cats and is commonly found in Siamese, Persian and Savannah breeds. The condition occurs in female cats more often than males.

Exposure of a pregnant cat to certain chemicals, cortisone, medications, or excessive intake of vitamins A and D has also been linked to the development of cleft palate in embryos.

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Diagnosis of Cleft Palate in Cats

When kittens are born, the mouth should be checked for normal development as part of an initial examination. If a defect is not noticed at that time, pet owners may soon see that affected kittens have difficulty eating and may blow milk bubbles out of the nose when nursing. This warrants a prompt visit to the veterinarian as pneumonia and death may occur. 

A vet will perform a thorough physical examination to diagnose cleft palate. Deformities of the front palate are easy to see, but if the cleft is further back in the mouth it can be more difficult to diagnose. Anesthesia may be needed to complete this examination. X-rays may also be ordered to check for pneumonia. Kittens will also need to be examined for the presence of other diseases or heart abnormalities.

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Treatment of Cleft Palate in Cats

Multiple surgeries are often necessary to repair cleft palate in kittens. It is standard practice to wait until the kitten has reached three to four months of age before surgery is performed. This allows the oral cavity to grow and the size of the cleft to shrink. Advanced knowledge is required to surgically correct cleft palate, and surgery should only be performed by an experienced veterinarian. The complexity of the surgery will depend on the extent of the cleft. Larger clefts may require the use of tissue grafts or dental hardware. It is possible that the cleft may reopen after surgery and the cat may continue to have nasal problems. Because kittens with cleft palate are likely to be underweight and malnourished, there are additional risks associated with the necessary anesthesia.

From birth until the kitten is old enough to undergo surgery, special feeding techniques will be required. It may be possible to feed with a long nipple that bypasses the cleft area. More often, a feeding tube is needed. It is fairly easy for owners to learn how to insert the tube prior to each meal, or the vet may prefer to place a tube in the side of the neck. The kitten will need to be fed every two hours around the clock. Water is usually provided using an overhead dispenser.

It is common for kittens with this disorder to develop pneumonia from inhaling milk while eating. This must be quickly identified and treated as it can be life-threatening. It is also recommended that cats with cleft palate be spayed or neutered to avoid unintentionally passing the condition on to future generations.

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Recovery of Cleft Palate in Cats

Following surgery, the kitten will be prescribed pain-management medications and will be given a cone-shaped E-collar to prevent injury or irritation. It is likely that the kitten will need to stay at the veterinary hospital for one or two days to ensure that it is stabilized and does not have respiratory difficulties. Once the kitten comes home, owners will need to make sure that the cone remains in place for one to two weeks. Antibiotics may be prescribed if the kitten has a nasal infection or pneumonia. Cats that are in pain tend to hide, so owners will need to watch them carefully and consult the vet regarding unusual behavior. 

The soft palate may be swollen after surgery, resulting in breathing problems or snoring. This will usually resolve on its own. The cat will need to be fed soft, blended food either by mouth or with a feeding tube for several weeks. Hard food or toys should be avoided for at least a month. Sutures used in surgery will be absorbable so removal will not be necessary, but the veterinarian will want to see the kitten for follow-up appointments to ensure proper healing.

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Cleft Palate Average Cost

From 579 quotes ranging from $200 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,000

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Cleft Palate Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Feline

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32months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Cannot Chew Dry Food, Avoids Water. Does Eat Canned Food Be That I Add Water Too. Nursed 12Weeks, Until Mother Refused Him. Last Kitten Born In Litter Of 5. Screamed During Birthing And Was The Smallest Kitten.

What could be the cause of his symptoms?

Aug. 2, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello, there are many things that can cause these issues. Your cat can have issues with his teeth or mouth or something else. It would be best for your vet to look in his mouth and examin him to figure out what is causing this. Cats can be very picky eaters and finding the food that they like may take time. I have found that they like the ones that smell the worst.

Aug. 2, 2020

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Baby

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short hair

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1 Week

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Unable To Eat
Lack Of Appetite
Not Gaining Weight
Unable To Latch
Failure To Thrive

I have a week old kitten that I'm pretty sure has a cleft lip. I can see separation between the upper halves. Unsure about the pallet. As of right now I'm bottle feeding her with a long nippled bottle. The rest of her sibling are thriving almost no over twice her size. She's only 76 grams right now. Is there anything else I can do to keep her going?

Sept. 13, 2018

Baby's Owner

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Max

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mixed

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3 Months

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Weight Loss
Coughing
Nasal Discharge

I have a 3 month old male kitten with a cleft pallet my vet said to keep an eye on it all was good for a month and a half. But then I noticed he wasn't he was gaining weight like his litter mates and is coughing alot more with nasel discharge. Should I worry? And how should I help him eat? Im planning on taking him to the vet asap

July 24, 2018

Max's Owner

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0 Recommendations

It certainly sounds like the cleft palate is causing issues for Max with the characteristic symptoms, you should visit your Veterinarian as soon as possible as they may advise you on how to tube feed Max and also will check for any symptoms of aspiration pneumonia. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.acvs.org/small-animal/cleft-palate

July 24, 2018

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Shadow

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Cali lco

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1 Month

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Moderate severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Lep Half Gone, Eats An Drink Ok.

I'm 16, I saved this kitten from a dog, not sure what to do half the lip is gone and it is peeling still and no fur on the lips at all cuz it is Halfway Gone. I'm not sure exactly what to do. I need some advice and wants to my parents don't really have any money to take it to the vet. P.S. not sure on the bread so I just put something.

July 12, 2018

Shadow's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Ideally a trip to any Veterinarian is best, charity clinics and other nonprofit organisations may be an option in your city. However, you should bathe the lip with some plain water to keep it clean and free of debris; ensure that Shadow is drinking at a minimum and observe closely. If there was an attack by a dog then there is a risk of head injury which would need to be checked out. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 12, 2018

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Princess

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Mut

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8 Weeks

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

None

I just adopted a 8week old kitten and it has a cleft nose. It seems to eat and drink ok. But it's breathing sounds raspy. I haven't taken her to the vet yet but will be next week. Just wondering if there is anything I should know to help her. Thank you.

July 10, 2018

Princess' Owner

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0 Recommendations

Severity varies from case to case, without examining Princess I cannot determine the severity or whether there is anything else affecting breathing; it sounds like there may be little to no palate involvement but I cannot say without examining her first. Keep an eye on her and visit your Veterinarian for a thorough examination of the defect. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 11, 2018

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New born

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Unknown

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1 Day

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Moderate severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Cleft Palate
Twisted Leg Syndrome

So my cat gave birth to her first litter maybe a bout 6 or 7 hours ago immediately we noticed that the small gray kitten had twisted leg syndrome in its front paws. Eventually it wouldn't latch on to momma to feed. We decided to bottle feed the kitten then, however formula kept coming out of its nose. We left and came back the kitten was still alive, however when i went to feed the kitten again i was varley giving it drops and more formula was coming out of its nose. Eventually i found it it had a cleft palate in its mouth, its head is smaller than its eyes. However its eyes are stilled closed and we cannot afford the procedure for the cleft palate. My main question is, how long will the kitten survive?

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Shimbala

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American long hair

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8 Months

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Serious severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Sneezing
Coughing
Runny Nose
Infection

My cat has cleft palate and had been operated 10 times.the last 2 surgeries we had covered stitch with biological glue but it didn't work.he has been on medication(antibiotics(ampicillin,cefazolin,amikasin,lincopec) since 5 month ago and I'm really nervous about his liver and infection.Is there any other methods of surgery or medical equipment to try?

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Miguel Angelo DonCarlos

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Domestic longhair

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10 Years

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Moderate severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Sneezing

I have a 10 year old cat, might be a Turkish Van or just a beautiful (handsome) long haired cat. He showed up on my porch one day and never was claimed. He is full grown at 7 lbs. He has had constant sneezing issues. I call him my "snot launcher" because I never know where I am going to find it. He vomits after he eats and often 'dry hacks' like he is going to cough up a hairball. No other cats in my house are affected. He does not respond to antibiotics. I recently changed vets and she suggested a nasal probe and a good look in his mouth. After sedation and a good clearing of the nasal passages, she told me that he has a split soft palate. She said repair is a possibility but I would need to connect with a specialist. I wish I had this diagnosis a lot sooner. I feel so badly that surgery might have been an option when he was still a kitten. Do you think he is too old to consider surgery now? He is in good health, playful, and his blood work came back OK.

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Gary

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Domestic shorthair

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5 Years

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Moderate severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Coughing

I have a 5 year old male kitty that stopped purring and meowing around thanksgiving time. We started trying to figure out was was wrong. We took him to our vet and she said his throat was really red and sore looking he was given antibiotics and sent home. Kitty seems to be feeling ok and acting normal but still no purr or meow. So back to the vet she did xrays and found he has asthma pretty bad. She sent us home giving him albuterol 2 times a day. In a few more weeks he seemed sick. We take him back X-ray are unchanged so more antibiotics and continue albuterol. Kitty seems to be acting normal except a wheeze a cough at times. Has asthma attacks at times. Talk to vet and she suggests a referral to a vet that can scope him. That is when we find out he has a cleft soft palate and that is why he has asthma so bad because he is coughing and aspirating. We don’t have an answer as to why he can no longer purr or meow. The vet is going to be consulting a vet that may be able to repair the palate although she is not sure it can be repaired.

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Newborn with no name

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domestic short hair

dog-age-icon

3 Weeks

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

None

I have a kitten that is a week shy of a month old. I hadn’t noticed it’s deformity until now as the mama kept them in a cover box and I didn’t want to touch them until they were old even and when I did a saw a small gap in between the lip and nose, obviously cleft palete, But it’s the same size as the other kittens in the litter and doesn’t have any of these symptoms other than the obvious physical problem. I want to know what I should do, and sadly a vet is not an option as I can’t afford it right now.

Cleft Palate Average Cost

From 579 quotes ranging from $200 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,000

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