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Homer begins his sneak attack by flattening to the floor and in silent mode, approaches within pouncing distance. For Homer, quiet is equal to invisible. As he gathers himself for the final leap, the other cat jumps him! How do they always know?
They can see him coming. Homer doesn’t know this. Homer is blind.
Found in Miami, he was about two weeks old and already had an eye infection so severe the veterinarian was forced to remove both eyes and suture the eyelids closed. It gives Homer a squinty look but keeps out any dirt or debris.
Now Homer lives in New York with his person Gwen Cooper, her husband, and two other cats. Moving to a new home hasn’t been too much of a problem for him says Gwen. “I show him where the litter box is first, then food and water. After that, he explores at his own pace.
The other cats hide under the bed for two days but Homer is memorizing the layout.” Homer is wedded to his habits—he knows when he is supposed to be fed when the sun shines in the window and he’s sure he should not be left alone.
“It’s not anxiety but he likes one of us or the cats nearby so I always try to make sure he knows when we’re leaving the room,” Gwen said.
Homer is a good organizer, without lifting a paw. With a blind cat, rooms need to be clutter-free, no magazines to slip on when jumping on the coffee table and no shoes left in the hallway to trip over. Furniture rearranging is kept to a minimum. Homer’s made a few errors in judgment but learns from his mistakes. After a dip or two into the bathtub, he now navigates the edge of the tub without slipping. “He always goes back to figure out what he did wrong,” said Gwen. “The next time, he does better. We call him the Cat Who Always Comes Back.”
“He has no fear. Homer loves to climb and if he’s in a hurry to get down, watch out—he’s going to jump. He is a cat who is capable of enjoying life like any other.” Gwen said. “If you’re thinking of adopting a blind cat, just use common sense.”
Common sense rules include:
- Other pets – If you have dogs, are they trained to leave the cats alone?
- Children – Are they old enough to understand the cat’s special needs?
- Stress-free environment – Is there a place where your cat can retreat if he feels overwhelmed?
Janis Badarau found a stray cat who had a bad cough, one clouded eye and a torn ear. Viewed from above, she was so skinny, she looked like a T shape. The veterinarian thought an injury during a fight caused the cloudiness in her eye. “The vet says Skyler can see a little bit, but that it’s like looking through Vaseline. Essentially the eye doesn’t work, and we often see her cocking her head to one side to see.
Occasionally she misses her mark when she’s jumping somewhere, but for the most part, she can compensate,” said Janis. “Four years later, her left eye is almost completely clouded.”
Skyler is very playful with people but is skittish around other cats. Sometimes she is defensive and warns them away. The cats know they have the advantage when they sneak up on her left side. Janis watches closely and intervenes when necessary.
Skyler’s vision may not be perfect but Janis said, “We don’t care. Her fur is like velvet and she loves to wash us. And with the good food and TLC she gets from us, she has gained sufficient weight and stopped coughing.”
What about cats who go blind later in life? Carole Nelson Douglas’ Midnight Louie Jr. went blind at age eight. Carole writes the Midnight Louie, feline PI, mystery series. “Louie had picked me when I was touring the Lubbock animal shelter during the first Midnight Louie Adopt-a-Cat book tour,” Carole said.
“Junior became our seventh cat, more than we’d ever had, but I couldn’t resist him. We ended up driving 600 miles to get him once I’d finished my book tour.”
When Louie missed when jumping onto the arm of the sofa—twice—Carole took him to the vet who diagnosed retinal deterioration. A specialist said the loss of sight would be gradual, like “stars winking out one by one.”
Louie has remarkable survival skills. He finds his way around through scent, even as he’s aged. “His sense of smell and hearing are so keen it appears that he is responding like a sighted cat,” Carole said. “When we get a new computer system and the boxes are piled three high in the living room after arrival, Louie will be sitting atop them.”
“He became curious about the spayed feral cat we brought in and visited her crate. She wanted to be friends. Although he couldn’t see her flipping over and tail-pulsing overtures, she completely fixated on him. “It’s the eternal triangle, though. Louie had bonded to me first and foremost,” says Carole. “He only tolerates Audrey’s determined side-rubs and efforts to eat and drink with him.”
Louie had two brief spells when he needed a little help as his condition worsened but Carole says, “He soon compensated and got his groove and amiable mood back. And he did and does that while suffering terminal cancer. Because the blindness was gradual, it’s become the least of his problems.”
Cats are wonderfully adaptive. As Homer, Skyler and Midnight Louie, Jr. show, loss of sight is more of an inconvenience than a disability.
Gwen Cooper is the author of Homer’s Odyssey.
Carol Nelson Douglas is the author of over a dozen Midnight Louie mystery books.
Additional article: Honey Bee – A Truly Inspirational Cat
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