ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – An eight-week-old kitten is recovering at Albuquerque Animal Welfare with a crushed jaw. Doctors helped save her with multiple surgeries and the use of buttons. They say Mittens isn’t just an ordinary stray.

“We’re not exactly sure what kind of trauma she had but whatever happened to her, whether it be falling down from a high balcony, being hit by a car or thrown by a car window, which often happens,” said Dr. Nicole Vigil, senior veterinarian with Albuquerque Animal Welfare. “Her face was actually crushed and so we do see things like that from falls.”

She was around five weeks old when she was brought in. Veterinarians say she arrived at the shelter with her face and jaw crushed, unable to close her jaw or eat well.

“Because she couldn’t close, she couldn’t eat very well,” said Vigil. “So we found that no matter what we did for the obvious fracture, there was still stuff going on so she couldn’t function correctly. She was in rough shape.”

Complicated cases like this one usually require the help of specialists. In this case, veterinarians with Veterinary Dentistry and Oral Surgery of New Mexico stepped in.

“Dr. Bannon and Dr. Littles from the Veterinary Dentistry specialty center in Algodones stepped in,” said Vigil. “The veterinarians and specialists in this area, the way they support the shelter, just lifts your heart and makes you so excited to come to work every day because there’s no one to speak for these little guys.”

The doctors did 3D imaging and also found Mittens has issues now in her TMJ area of her jaw, requiring more surgery. Multiple surgeries can cost thousands of dollars. Even with their Angel Fund, the cost was too much for Animal Welfare, so the specialists offered to do the rest for free. With that, came an innovative way for the now-eight-week-old kitten to heal.

“They actually used buttons to hold her jaw together and closed for a bit to allow it to heal,” said Vigil. “The buttons basically worked as stabilizers so some suture could hold her jaw closed.”

Dr. Vigil says she’s never seen a treatment like that. However, she says it seems to be working. Just this past week, specialists say her jaw is healing and they were able to remove the buttons.

“Even though she had her jaw basically wired shut it was open just enough to allow her to eat and she ate like a champ,” said Vigil. “She’s really growing now and successfully healing.”

Mittens still has some growing and healing to do, but will likely be available for adoption in 3-4 weeks. Many Animal Welfare surgeries like this one are covered by donations to the Angel Fund through Kennel Kompadres.