I recently read the book, “Homer’s Odyssey” by Gwen Cooper. The book records the survival of a kitten who lost his eyes due to an infection at four weeks of age, but went on to live an inspiring life that was not limited by his handicap.
The main reason I loved this story is because I have a one-eyed kitty named Shiloh who lost his eye in the same way as Homer.
A lady called me about four years ago from one of the local trailer parks. We had helped this woman with innumerable stray cats, getting them fixed to prevent more unwanted kittens. So when she called with another feline in need, I was disheartened–she always seemed to have one more cat that showed up–it was never ending. It had been a struggle to get her to let us help her get the strays spayed and neutered. She loved having kittens every year.
This time, however, the cat in need was a small kitten, only about 5-6 weeks old with a terrible upper respiratory infection. The woman told me that the mother cat had brought the kitten and a sibling to her doorstep. The second kitten died and she feared this one would, as well.
The fluffy black furball was very friendly even though he had had no encounters with humans. He was starved and devoured the can of cat food I had brought with me. I was reluctant to bail this woman out of her cat situation again, so I told her we would help if she would foster the kitten temporarily until I could find a place for him to go. After getting antibiotics from the vet, I left the woman in charge of the little guy, knowing he would soon be well from a round of medicine.
I came back to check on the kitten at the end of the week. Imagine my horror to see that, not only was he not better, he was in fact, much, much worse. While he had only had a runny nose and eyes before, now his right eye was so infected, it appeared to be bulging from his head like a fat, red tomato.
I immediately took the kitten from the woman, who promised me she had been giving him the medicine properly–although I doubted it. And why, when she noticed his eye increasing in size, didn’t she call me? She called me about every other little thing! In her defense, the medicine that was used, we discovered later, was not appropriate for the bacteria causing his infection, but I didn’t know that at the time. I rushed the kitten to the vet, berating myself for leaving him with the woman who I knew was scatter brained and irresponsible.
We tried everything to save Shiloh’s eye, but in the end, his right eye had to be removed. We were able to save the left eye and the vet sewed the right socket shut so that it now just looks, like Homer’s eyes, as if Shiloh has one eye closed or is winking at you.
I still blame myself for Shiloh’s loss of his eye. If I had only taken him when his eye still was okay, maybe he never would have lost the eye. If only I had not left him with the woman just because we didn’t have space and I wanted to make her take some responsibility and not just push every cat off on us to help. If only…
Shiloh does not know that he is missing an eye. He is the most outgoing, rambunctious cat around. He runs and jumps (and does sometimes bump into things) and harasses the other cats who he has never been intimidated by even when he was only the size of a flea.
Shiloh was my husband’s favorite of all the strays that we’ve had come through our house as fosters and so, he eventually just stayed with us.
Like Gwen Cooper, I feel for all blind cats, who unlike Homer or my Shiloh, do not have someone who loves them or provides them with a safe haven where they will never feel scared or confused in their blindness.