Until I met Ernie, I didn’t know much about blind cats.
My friend Beth had recommended a few months before meeting Ernie a book called Homer’s Odyssey, about a black, eyeless (and therefore of course blind) cat. I heard of the book in November 2009 (before I moved here), but only read it in July 2010, half a year after adopting Ernie and Ellie. I had completely forgotten about the book until it arrived.
A family for me means a human of my choice, and a few (or a lot) of feline friends. So once I was for good here, it was finally time to look around and find some cats that would adopt us. As all cats are awesome, we had first a look at petfinder to see what kind of fluffy friends were around and available around here. We sent a few emails to ask more about specific cats, and after a few rounds of questions, Austin Pets Alive! was the rescue group that impressed us most. They were the most helpful in finding pets that would suit the families best. What we wanted were two brothers or a brother and sister, rather young ones, and as I had heard, my favorite cat color tends to be the least adopted, so any shade of black (unless cats of other colors would love us more). Of the sibling combinations available, Ernie and Ellie seemed like the sweetest things ever. The boy was born with cataracts, and everyone thought he was completely blind. The girl has always been very protective and caring for her little brother. I loved their description, but… a blind cat? We had “just a look”, and when the boy fell asleep on my hand, I was gone. Madly in love with these two fluffballs, and they came home with us.
We didn’t know much about blind cats first. Some google fu returned basically blind cat rescue and Homer’s site (or his human’s, Gwen Cooper’s). We prepared for the worst, tried to kittyproof the house, and got out fluffy children home. Since then (January last year), we’ve learned a lot.
Ernie can see a bit. He can see if there is something on the floor when he’s on hte bed, but only if there’s a huge different color than the carpet. He can’t see if the toilet has a lid on or off (so it stays always down unless anyone is using it at the moment), or follow the red dot laser cat toy. But his other senses compensate his lack of visual clarity. If there’s the tiniest fly in the bedroom, both cats stare at its direction (when neither of us could hear or see it). If you open a can (of tuna or anything), the boy will be in kitchen in 7 seconds or less, no matter how deep asleep he was. It doesn’t stop him from playing with his soccer ball or toy mice (some of which have jingly things inside, some catnip). It doesn’t stop him from playing with his sister. Some days his eyes seem much more clear, but the normally black parts are mostly light blue, cloudy. He doesn’t seem to see things that are further than his front paws, but he surely finds his ways around the house.
If I put food on his plate, I sometimes tap on the bowl so he can locate the bowl better. But that is often unnecessary, as he finds everything that’s happening in the house. Both cats have grown to be awesome ones, far from the tiny, rescued from death row from Town Lake (too small, URI, and he blind). There isn’t that much that we have to do because of his blindness nowadays – keep the toilet lid down, and don’t change the furniture order too suddenly. That’s about it.
The info on blind cat rescue site had scared us a bit, but maybe it’s also to our advantage both of us had been owned by several cats before. I love both of the kitties, and Ernie is definitely a love bug, without whom I could not imagine my life any more. Ernie’s lack of seeing is not a big deal. It’s not something we would have to think on a daily basis, or make sacrifices for. So my advice to those who ever end up finding a vision impaired cat that likes them (or they like the cat): don’t be afraid, go for it.
Ellie on the background staring at the camera, Ernie in front