Honey Bee lives in Seattle with Sabrina Aeluro, but she’s racked up a number of frequent flyer miles. Born in Fiji, she and two of her littermates were surrendered to Animals Fiji, a nonprofit clinic/shelter. "I met her when I was visiting. She was so affectionate and such a wonderful cat, I arranged to import her to the United States," Sabrina says.
Health Concerns Turn Into Special NeedsHoney Bee and both of her siblings had deformed eyes. The cause is unknown, but workers at the shelter suspected there was a higher-than-normal rate of eye deformities for the local cats due to the banned-in-the-USA pesticides used on the island.
Neither of her eyes were functional for sight. They were probably itchy or painful, so they were surgically removed. It hasn’t slowed her down though.
The Road TripsHoney Bee’s lived with Sabrina since she was just a few months old. They relocated from Fiji to Seattle, followed by a move to a Caribbean island, and back to Seattle. She's had a big life for a little blind cat.
Sabrina says, “Honey Bee doesn't enjoy traveling itself. Her outdoor adventures are mostly near wherever we've been living. Her furthest hikes were about an hour's drive from home. She prefers to spend more time outside and less time in a cat carrier getting to the outdoors.”
When outside, Honey Bee is on a leash for her own safety. “Once, she darted up a tree after a squirrel and would have kept going upwards if she could have,” Sabrina says. “She's quite fearless. I don't want her to chase after a bug or small animal and get hurt or lost.”
On the Move
Getting around the house might seem like it would be an obstacle, but Honey Bee seems to maintain a mental map of things. “In the four years I've had her, she's lived in four different places with me. Each time, she slowly makes her way around, sniffing everything, learning the layout,” Sabrina says. “After a week, she's running around and remembers where things are. You wouldn't think she was blind until you noticed she has no eyes.”
Friends Make Life BetterA companion cat is always helpful for kitties with disabilities. Sabrina says, “When I first got Honey Bee, I had another senior cat, Tavo, who Honey Bee absolutely fell in love with. They were best friends, always doing things together. Sadly, he came to the end of his life just shy of hitting twenty years old.”
After that, Honey Bee had Mouse as her cat friend. They were buddies, but they weren’t as snuggly as she was with her Tavo. Mouse warmed up to her, though. He wasn’t accustomed to a cat who wanted to sleep curled up with him, but Honey Bee is a lovey little thing. She prefers to sleep next to Sabrina or another cat. She and Mouse played like any other cats would, batting each other's tails, initiating games of chase, that sort of thing. “I know she will always need a cat friend to socialize with,” Sabrina says. “Mouse died unexpectedly on November 17th. He’d been diagnosed with diabetes, but something worse was going on.” Mouse was fifteen years old.
At dinnertime, Mouse vomited, collapsed and was taken to the emergency veterinarian’s office where they found his abdomen was filling with fluid. The diagnosis was a tumor had ruptured, most likely from pancreatic cancer, and was bleeding into Mouse’s stomach. “The doctors did everything they could to stabilize him but felt he wasn’t strong enough to survive anesthesia for surgery. At that point, I had a decision to make,” Sabrina says. “Mouse’s last day was not at all what I wanted for him. No big send-off with a pile of treats, but his last hour was the best death I could facilitate for him.”
Sabrina didn’t want Mouse to leave life while at the clinic, a place that scared him, surrounded by people he didn’t know. Euthanasia drugs were injected subcutaneously (beneath the skin), so the drug would take longer to absorb. “This let me get him home to Honey Bee. With IV fluids, his blood pressure was up, he was conscious and looking around. He was tired and confused but not in pain,” she says. “This isn’t a method to use for a pet in pain.”
She put Mouse on her bed, beside his favorite cat bed, the one he'd had since he was a kitten. Honey Bee curled up next to him. An hour after the injection, he went to sleep. Half an hour later, his heart stopped. “I know Honey Bee will miss him,” she says. “She doesn’t jump up on tall things she can’t fully investigate. So, while she's physically capable of it, she won’t jump on the kitchen counters or the entryway table. They're just tall enough that she can't stretch up and decide if they are safe, but it's not much of a limitation. She always seemed impressed when Mouse jumped. It was an adorable thing to see, the way she admired her big brother and his seemingly magical skills.”
Honey Bee was fairly quiet during the first week without Mouse but then began to play with her favorite crinkle ball. By December 1st, she was more active. Sabrina plans to adopt another blind cat or maybe one with a different kind of disability.
Why Adopt a Special Needs Pet
“I don't know if her friendliness and calmness is a function of being blind, but people are always surprised by her,” she says. “She goes about her life, confident and happy. I think most people wish they could have that attitude.”
Blind cats are amazing. “When I adopted Honey Bee, I assumed she would require a lot of special care, but all that's needed is being a little more considerate of her and mindful of changing things around,” she says. “If I leave a box in the middle of the floor, she might bump into it because it's not in her mental map. She gives me the incentive to keep things tidy.”
“Some special needs pets don't require highly specialized care. Don't overlook them at the animal shelter. Cats can have great lives even without eyes. It hasn't slowed her down,” Sabrina says. “I always encourage people to adopt special needs animals. I hope that Honey Bee's story makes people consider the less adoptable shelter pets. I think she's been a great ambassador for all disabled animals.”
Update: Honey Bee has always been the youngest of her cat group. That is going to change soon, as four-year-old “Baby Bee” will become the “Big Bee” this coming Friday. Honey Bee’s human saw the cutest blind orange kitten on Petfinder, and will be going to North Carolina to adopt him next week.
Do you share your life with a special needs cat? Tell us about your kitty in a comment! Or just let us know what you think about Honey Bee's special story. If you found it inspirational don't forget to share it with friends.
All photos in this article were graciously provided by Sabrina, Honey Bee's owner. You can see more wonderful photos and read about Honey Bee and her friends by visiting their Facebook page.