The Blind Cats of Home for Life

Animals are resourceful and courageous about living their life to the fullest, always focusing on what they CAN do and not their lack and limitations. Among our many dogs and cats who are blind, it is apparent that they compensate by relying on their other senses: hearing, touch smell and taste.Their other senses become especially acute to allow them not only to get by but also to relish their lives. At Home for Life, we reinforce and develop these senses by feeding tasty, high quality and aromatic food, playing beautiful classical and jazz music, providing brushing and grooming to keep their coats clean and healthy and stimulate their sense of touch and by providing safe access to the outdoors where even our blind cats can enjoy the fresh smell of springtime grass and the crisp fall weather, the sounds of birds singing and the quiet settling sounds as evening falls. Their disability has not stopped our blind cats from learning, growing, and enjoying life's simple pleasures.

Vera is a 3 year old blind cat from the Animal Humane Society in Minneapolis who came there as a stray. She has a beautiful short and shiny, dense, black fur coat and wide green eyes. Their veterinary staff noticed some abnormalities in her eyes and diagnosed her with bilateral mydriasis. After a month on the adoption floor at the humane society, she was able to see an eye specialist, and there it was discovered that she really had bilateral retinal atrophy which caused permanent vision loss (she only has the ability to tell light from dark); there is no treatment for the condition.

Since Vera appeared healthy otherwise and was already spayed and felv/fiv negative, the AHS asked Home for Life to take her in. At the sanctuary, Vera enjoys the spacious cattery and has a favorite perch- atop the cat scratch teepees. She drapes herself on the peak, her paws hanging on either side.From this prominent position, it is obvious that she feels she will readily attract attention from staff and visitors for extra attention and affection. After the floors are swept ,vacumed and mopped each day, the teepees are always replaced in about the same position as Vera has memorized the lay out of the cattery and major furniture pieces to easily negotiate her path in the cattery to feel at home and safe.

SUNSHINE: Sunshine is blind, most likely from birth, due to optic nerve atrophy. She is a young spayed female, medium-sized with a plush silver tabby coat. Although she is a short-haired cat, her rescue group described her as a Persian mix, probably because her coat is so thick. Her beautiful green eyes, even though sightless, are expressive in her sweet round face.

Sunshine was rescued by a Minnesota foster group, Pleading Paws. She had been abandoned at an old farm where she lived with many other unwanted cats. The owner of the property, an elderly gentleman, tried his best to feed and care for the cats but was overwhelmed. Sunshine, along with over 30 other cats, was living outside on her caretaker's property, doing her best to survive. Her clipped left ear tip reveals that the rescue had worked to spay and neuter as many cats in the colony as possible. Pleading Paws was slowly trying to get all the cats placed into homes but was most worried about Sunshine as she was so vulnerable—without the ability to see she was fair game for predators and cars, and would have little chance of surviving a harsh Minnesota winter outdoors.

Sunshine's past left her shy with strangers. She does not like to be picked up, but enjoys quiet pets and conversation. Her head moves back and forth as if to pick up the surrounding sensations, sounds, and smells with her whiskers, nose and ears.

Sunshine's strong survival instinct enabled her to adapt quickly to life at the sanctuary. She moves around the cattery with ease and has no trouble finding her favorite food among the bowls and plates of canned food that we serve for "kitty brunch" each day. The other cats, like most members of an evolved feline society, accept Sunshine as she is and welcomed her as a new friend at Home for Life®.

It was serendipitous when Pleading Paws proposed that Sunshine come to Home for Life®.
We had just lost one of our longtime residents, a Shepherd/Lab mix who was also named Sunshine. Sunshine the dog was rescued as a young puppy from a terrible situation in Baldwin, Wisconsin. The homeowner had several dogs on the property and was not feeding them or providing shelter. Dead puppies only weeks old were found frozen to the ground, and the adult dogs were desperate, dehydrated, and starving. The living dogs were taken in by Second Chance Rescue, of the Twin Cities, MN whose goal was to disperse them to various other groups for adoption. Sunshine, an older mixed-breed puppy with an extremely timid personality, came to Home for Life® when no other rescue group would take her. She received her name from the vet clinic, where they called her "their little ray of sunshine on a cloudy November day." Although she remained shy with strangers, she became a sweet and well loved member of Home for Life®, where she had many canine friends, especially Iris the blue cattle dog. When the cat named Sunshine, with such a similar background, needed our help so soon after Sunshine the dog passed away, it seemed like fate. In a special way, Sunshine the dog lives on in our beautiful new cat.


Although Rudy, also known as Rudolph, is blind, he seems to know how sleek and handsome he is. His appearance is exotic—almost Abyssinian—but his origins are humble. His owners dropped him, along with a female calico, at a Minnesota farm in the middle of winter, abandoning them to either the farmers' care or a certain death from starvation and exposure. The farm family took pity on Rudy and his companion and gave them shelter in a garage. However, the family was struggling financially and could not provide vet care for the cats, who were suffering from exposure and ear mites.
When Home for Life® learned of the cats' plight, we arranged for a vet to treat them, hoping that once they received rudimentary care, they could find homes. An adopter was found for the calico, but no one wanted blind Rudy. The farm family could not keep him, and they claimed that he had tested positive for feline leukemia. We did not want Rudy to infect the other farm cats, and we knew he would not survive the harsh winter in an unheated garage, so we agreed to take him in. Upon Rudy's arrival at Home for Life®, we retested him for leukemia only to learn he was negative. So, Rudy joined our uninfected cats in the north cattery, after he was neutered.

Rudy is delighted to be at Home for Life®, where he can live the life he is certain he deserves.
His blindness and hardscrabble past have not diminished his excellent 'opinion of himself. Other cats who are rude enough to allow Rudy to bump into them receive a hiss and a swift swat. The other cats, being a benevolent bunch, simply roll their eyes and keep moving.Rudy has decided that reclining on the futon is the best way to spend his day, and he plants himself in the dead center of the couch, stretches out full length, and enjoys the classical music piped into the cattery. It is great to see Rudy land on his feet, like any reputable feline can, with his self esteem and attitude intact.


Celeste came from Roberts, Wisconsin, where she lived
outdoors as a stray in a trailer park. She was blind and survived only because kind residents of the park made sure to leave food and water out for her that she could easily find. Rescued as a young adult, she was admitted to Home for Life just as winter approached.

When we met Celeste it was evident that she was not feral though she had been living on her own and wandering the trailer park for at least six months. She obviously recognized kindness and caring and benefitted from it because, normally, a blind cat outdoors alone who was feral would never have survived for long, nor have made friends with nearby people.

After her arrival at the sanctuary, we took Celeste to a veterinary opthalmologist. The doctor believed that Celeste's lack of eyes was the result of a birth defect, and that she never had the gift of sight. She was born with very small undeveloped eyes, and has never been able to see. The eye sockets, open holes to her head, still needed to be closed to prevent the chance of an infection. The undeveloped eye tissue was removed and the sockets and eye lids closed to prevent the chance of infection.

Not only is Celeste blind but she is positive for leukemia,which was discovered at the time she was admitted and routine screening was done by our veterinarian. Leukemia positive and blind, it is simply astonishing that Celeste survived as a stray as long as she did.

Celeste has been at Home for Life since 2006 and has always resided in our cattery devoted to our feline leukemia cats. She has blossomed in the secure and loving environment of our sanctuary.She can find her way around the cattery, to the food and water dishes and her favorite chair, and even through the cat doors to go outside, where she loves to be in the summer months. Like all our blind animals, Celeste was able to learn the layout of a room and use that knowledge as long as the landmarks remain in the same place. Despite being leukemia positive, she has enjoyed excellent health and is in beautiful condition. Celeste is a dilute calico with muted patches of grey and peach against a soft white fur coat. She loves to give hugs and loves to be held. Listening for the sound of staff and visitors she will eagerly approach to seek attention. With her gentle and calm purr-sonality, we have recruited Celeste as a therapy cat, for our Peace Creatures program. Celeste regularily travels from Home for Life to Minneapolis with our volunteers to visit the small children who are living in a battered women's shelters as their mothers attempt to rebuild their lives. These children,deeply impacted by domestic abuse, are delighted to meet the loving Celeste and learn about her inspiring story of how she has thrived despite all she has faced-abandonment, disability and disease. She loves the children and doesn't even mind the car rides to get to the domestic abuse shelter, and the exhuberance of the kids that greets her arrival.

This wonderful photo of Celeste enjoying a spot of sunshine in the cattery reveals her resiliant spirit, and her ability to make the most of all the opportunities in her life : a ray of sunshine though the cattery window on a winter day, the kindness of strangers at the trailer park where she was rescued, her good health despite being positive for leukemia, the care she has received at Home for Life from our caring staff who always make sure the cattery landmarks are where she can reference them to get around, and the love of the children who look forward to her visit each month.


Stormy is another of the Home for Life cats who has no eyes. Unlike Celeste who was born with no eyes, Stormy lost his sight through an injury. Because Stormy could once see, there is a difference in his demeanor as compared to Celeste, who was born blind and has never known otherwise. Stormy had beeen born able to see and to rely on his sight so the loss of his eyes through injury as an adult cat created a profound challenge for him.

Stormy, a recovering tom cat,was running as a stray in a trailer park in the northern suburbs of the Twin Cities, Minnesota. A rescue group called St. Francis of Forest Lake, MN initiated a trapy/neuter/release program for the many cats who ran loose in the park,most of whom were feral or untamed.

While setting traps and making ready their prepareations for the widespread feral cat operation, representatives from St. Francis observed a cat who was obviously blind, frantically running into the buildings and around the trailer homes. He was thin and had obviously been struggling to survive for a long time. They were able to trap the cat, and called Home for Life to ask if we could help him.

Stormy was neutered, and then we arranged for a veterinary ophthalmologist to evaluate his eyes to see what could be done. Sadly, the doctor discoverd that Stormy was blind in both eyes with no hope for future vision. The specialist determined that Stormy had suffered trauma to the skull, from either a car or most likely, from a kick or a smack with a bat or shovel. The severe head trauma resulted in retinal detachments and bleeding in both eyes with cataract formations. When there is enough inflammation to cause the eye to shrink, as Stormy's had, there is a chance of a future tumor in the eye called " post traumatic sarcoma". The decision was made to have the non- visual eyes removed and the eyelids closed over the empty sockets to prevent any chance of tumors forming and infections occurring. The financial support to help Stormy and pay for his surgeries were available from our Emergency Medical Care Fund, which underwrites treatment for animals admitted to Home for Life with serious injuries or illnesses.

Stormy has been a t Home for Life for several years now and courageously, has done his best to put the hard times behind him. Initially, he stayed in the outdoor cat run at all times and had to be fed out there. He only ventured indoors to the cattery late at night. Although tolerant of petting and not feral, he did not seek contact and was very wary and timid, as if he had lost all confidence in life and himself now that he was blind. But the appeal of regular mealtimes, a warm place to live, a soft bed and kind people to care for him finally persuaded Stormy that life was worth living as a tamer cat. He will never be the life of the party, but he now enjoys receiving attention from our staff and also eagerly awaits his daily canned food cat brunch.

Many cats that are identified as feral are simply stray cats- house cats who have been turned loose outside and abandoned to fend for themselves. They grow cautious out of necessity,but once their confidence is won again,they readily take to being cared for like the most loving of house cats. Stormy's turn around, as documented in this photo of him posing on the peak of the catscratch teepee, has been especially gratifying as he had so much to overcome: an abusive, neglectful past, a label of " feral" and also the trauma which left him blind and vulnerable. Stormy bravely faced these challenges- the pain from his injuries and the surgeries, and the unfamiliarity of a new home to which he had to adapt- despite being unable to see. In some ways life was harder for Stormy because, when he was able to see, he experienced fear and trauma. Those memories were what he was left with when he lost his sight. Even after he became blind, he must have retained the visual memory of the fear,neglect and abuse he suffered. Once he became blind, those traumatic memories were all he had to rely on, and they didn't serve him any longer in his new life except to make him shy and wary. Nurturing his other senses, with every expectation that Stormy would be able to fully enjoy his life even though blind, helped him build the positive experiences that allowed him to leave his painful past behind.