Animals

This Boston kitten has no nose, but he has more than 2,000 Instagram followers

No nose Nigel has captured hearts on the internet, and he's about to get his face fixed.

Nigel the kitten MSPCA-Angell

When he was six weeks old, he was found — wandering and emaciated — near a dumpster in Dorchester by a good Samaritan. The tiny kitten was rushed to the MSPCA, where a week later shelter staff were startled when half his face fell off.

That was in July. In the ensuing months, the young feline named “Nigel” by shelter staff has been waiting to have surgery on his small face, his progress and antics monitored by more than 2,000 people on his Instagram account @nonosenigel.

Perfecting my cat nap ? #nonosenigel #monosesmoproblems #mspcaboston #rainydaysnuggles

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“He’s really quite amazing and SUCH a trooper,” MSPCA-Angell spokesman Rob Halpin told Boston.com in an email.

Mike Pavletic, head of surgery at the MSPCA’s Angell Animal Medical Center, said he expects to perform Nigel’s reconstructive surgery on Thursday. He said its still not known what exactly caused the kitten’s nose to fall off.

MSPCA staff said when Nigel was first brought in, they thought the kitten was suffering from an upper respiratory infection.

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“His nose and much of his face seemed discolored but that appeared to be a standard infection for which we started him on pain medicine and antibiotics,” adoption center manager Alyssa Krieger said in a July statement. “We were shocked to discover later just how seriously injured Nigel was.”

Pavletic told Boston.com he suspects some kind of trauma to be the cause of Nigel’s face falling off, rather than a congenital defect. He said he saw a similar injury in a stray cat that was brought back to New England from Iran.

“It likely got its upper nose caught in something like a can of tuna,” he said of that cat. “Sometimes people will leave the lid partially attached, so the unfortunate animal sticks her head in there scavenging for food and then they get trapped and when it comes out it tends to slice off part of the face.”

In other instances, he said he’ll see cats with damage to their lips or palates from chewing on electrical cords.

Generally, Pavletic said such an injury is not very common.

While it’s impossible to say what exactly caused Nigel’s problem, he said whatever it was “would have to be some substantial type of injury.”

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“Unfortunately, this little stray cat got into something,” Pavletic said. “It could have also been bitten in the face, sustained serious injury, gotten infected, and then a different part of the lip and part of the nose just became devitalized.”

According to the veterinarian, most of the damage Nigel suffered is to his upper lip — his lip from his right to left canine teeth is “essentially gone,” while part of the lower part of his nose is also missing.

“The shelter reports that Nigel seems to barely notice his injury and is kitten like all other kittens: he’s cozy and affectionate when he wants to be and loves to hang out on shoulders or curl up on laps,” Halpin said. “And, because he’s a kitten, he adores playtime: he can be found pouncing on toy mice at any time of day or night and he’d play for hours with string toys if his human pals are up to it.”

Paveletic said the ginger kitten isn’t in pain, but the injury makes it difficult for him to eat, with food and water spilling from his mouth.

Paint me like one of your French purrrrls #nonosenigel #catsofinstagram #adopt #mspca #mspcaboston

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“He seems to be otherwise a fairly healthy cat,” the veterinarian said. “It’s got a personality to itself, and he is rather a little precocious and likes to play hard. But that’s being a kitten, so I think with correction of this, the cat will resume a fairly normal life.”

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He said with these kinds of injuries, he likes to wait until the animal is at least five months old before performing the reconstructive surgery.

“They’re larger, they’re more mature, they’re tissues are stronger, they can hold sutures more effectively than if you’re trying to do the surgery on a tiny kitten,” Pavletic said.

On Thursday, Pavletic says he plans to use a technique he developed —  sliding the remaining left and right parts of the lip forward — to close the kitten’s face and reconstruct his snout. He said he’ll likely have to remove some of Nigel’s teeth as part of the reconstruction, but that otherwise the kitten should be fine.

“One surgery to correct this, and ideally, we’re done,” he said.

According to Halpin, Nigel has been spending time both in foster homes and the shelter while he waited for his surgery. After the operation, he’ll most likely remain in the shelter as he recovers.

The MSPCA has already received more than 50 inquiries from people hoping to adopt the Instagram sensation.

“He’d do well in any kind of home: kids or no kids,” Halpin said. “He’ll probably get along just fine with cats and dogs owing to how young he is and how much socialization he’s already gotten in his foster home.”

Anyone interested in making Nigel a permanent member of their family can email [email protected] or visit the adoption center for more information.

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