An 18-year-old tiger called Ratna at Shepreth Wildlife Park has received sight-saving surgery, which was the first of its kind to be performed on a big cat.

Ratna had cataracts removed in 2018 and required daily eye drops but in February this year, the keepers noticed a discolouration.

Despite having a procedure under anaesthetic, Ratna’s eye continued to deteriorate and she required a hood graft, which was usually practised on domestic cats and dogs.

Dr David Williams from Cambridge University Pet School, who performed the procedure, said: ‘There was considerable damage to the cornea which in any domestic cat would have required intensive eye care, so we decided the best course of action was to operate to place a graft of conjunctiva across the front of the eye.’

Shepreth’s team were concerned about an older cat being anaesthetised twice in the same week but vets said it was the only way Ratna’s sight could be saved.

Williams performed the hood graft in 30 minutes and Ratna was walking about her enclosure within an hour.

The ophthalmologist added that he was confident the surgery would heal the ulcerating eye and save Ratna’s sight.