After 6 years and 1,000 cats at my shelter, I have learned quite a lot by simply observing how they act, or react, toward events, conditions and people in their lives. Normal cats/blind cats that have all their faculties use them as needed, just as we do.
But life changes when some of one’s abilities to communicate, eat or move around are no longer present. For cats that have become blind, deaf, paralyzed or have lost limbs, managing day-to-day tasks takes on new challenges.
For an outdoor cat, especially a stray, any disability will almost certainly be a death sentence as other, stronger cats outwit, out-hunt, overpower, or simply attack them. Such cats would then die of starvation because they are not able to eat unless someone brings it to them.
Blind cats are most likely to thrive in a protected environment, such as in a loving home, although someone occasionally spots a three-legged cat that manages to survive in their neighborhood. A blind or deaf cat, however, will not last very long.
Interestingly, though, animals more easily accept their limitations and work around them, without being obsessively sad or resentful. Today is today, and the skills we bring to every today is how we get through each one.
Animals can be happy and contented with some of the most awful disabilities, and they serve as wonderful lessons to us as humans, so that we can accept things, too.
Our blind cat has learned to manage by her wits, her ability to detect smells, sounds and subtle movements around her, and has memorized the layout of the entire house.
Our deaf cat lost her ability to hear gradually over her 15 year lifespan so far, so she has gradually learned to accept her silent surroundings. Of course, she’s easy to sneak up on, so she will never be allowed outdoors.
The tripod cat, who lost a front leg to a steel jaw trap, had more than her physical limitations to deal with… she was traumatized by the event and it took about 2 years for her to learn to trust humans again.
The watchword with her was definitely “patience” and gentle respect. And our two kitties who survived distemper have neurological problems. They are unable to walk or run straight, as their hindquarters zig and zag along the way.
Although they are unadoptable, since most of the pet-buying public seems to want perfect pets, these two cats are very happy and enrich our lives, too. They seem to be quite oblivious to their uncoordinated ways, and certainly don’t dwell on their problems.
Learning to live with our blind cat has not been difficult… it just requires respect and consideration. Actually, that’s all it takes with any disabled animal, or for that matter, any animal at all. In fact, those two skills are all that’s needed to relate successfully with anyone… animal or person.
Other disabilities that can affect our blind cats include neurological disorders, deafness, loss of a leg or other body part, or a disease process, such as diabetes. [Dr. RJ Peters established a rescue shelter in 2002 and has found new homes for more than 1,000 animals, mostly cats]