One day recently, a tiny black ball of fluff arrived at the Arizona Humane Society. She is one of the over 80,000 lives that have been saved there in the last five years. This precious kitten was not feeling well, so she was examined by the Arizona Humane Society medical team and ushered to their cat isolation area to manage an upper respiratory infection. Upper respiratory infections are common in kittens, but there was something uncommon about this kitten whom the team named Sonnet.
She had very striking eyes. In fact, her eyes looked almost like broken window panes or like a spider had spun a web in each of her eyes. The shelter photographer, Brian Sterrett, says that Sonnet looked as though she had a “galaxy in her eyes.” She did not seem particularly uncomfortable, but the team was not sure she had full vision, especially in her left eye.
It turned out that Sonnet was affected by an unusual congenital disorder called Persistent Pupillary Membranes (PPM). According to William W. Miller, DVM, MS, DACVO, PPM is a congenital anomaly that has no known genetic predisposition. During development, the pupillary membranes serve as a source of nutrition to the emerging ocular structures. Once the eyes are fully developed, the role of the membranes is over and they usually regress. In some cases, like Sonnet’s, they fail to dissolve like they should and leave behind the remnants of the membrane network.
PPM can occur in other species including humans, dogs, cattle and horses, but it is still unusual.
Although Sonnet would be spayed prior to placement in her permanent home, PPM is not a condition that she would have passed on to her offspring. The condition is not painful for Sonnet, and in some cases, it regresses during the first 6-8 months of life. She is six months old now, so we don’t yet know if her “galaxy eyes” will be permanent.
Dr. Miller says that the good news for Sonnet is that PPMs cause few problems unless they are attached to the lens (which could precipitate cataract formation) or attached to the cornea (which could cause a corneal opacity).
After her recovery from the upper respiratory infection and her short stint as a shelter celebrity, Sonnet was placed in an AHS Foster Hero home and was later adopted. She is, by all accounts, a playful and happy kitten, living her best life with her new family.
The Arizona Humane Society in a non-profit organization that takes in the area’s most vulnerable pets. They have a field rescue team that responds to calls for animal rescue and helps animals whose families are facing hardship. All pets adopted through AHS are spayed/neutered, vaccinated, microchipped and receive appropriate veterinary care.
Since AHS is a non-profit organization, they do not get government funding, so their good work depends on donation. Every pet entering their care requires an average of $1,000 to treat, manage and place in a forever home, so they are always looking for intriguing stories like Sonnet’s to raise awareness of the plights of animals and their efforts to assist them.
Anyone interested in donating can find out more at