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Meet Oskar the blind cat

Posted by yornma on March 9, 2012 in Animal Articles, Cats, Extra Love Needed |

Meet Oskar, he was born blind.

He was adopted July 2011 at 8 weeks old.

Below is the transcript of my interview with one of his guardians.

Were  there any certain changes you had to make when bringing Oskar home for the first time?

We made some changes at home the day we adopted Oskar (he was also taken to the vet for a full checkup before we brought him home to ensure he didn’t get our other cat, Klaus, sick).  We created a separate space for Oskar to live in while Klaus was getting accustomed to a new cat in the house (we just had Klaus prior to Oskar’s arrival).  The new space consisted of a comfortable bedding area, a separate litter box, toys, food and water bowl, and absolutely nothing else on the floor that Oskar would bump into.  We put pillows and blankets along the edges of the wall just in case he ran into things, but that was never an issue.

He began to memorize his new surroundings almost immediately,  We also made sure to keep the toilet lid closed at all times, and to leave all interior doors open at the point that Oskar started roaming all over the house (this way he wouldn’t fall in when climbing up on the toilet — he started doing thisal most right away).  He was isolated from Klaus for about five days — we fed the cats on the opposite sides of the closed door so they could get used to one another.

Did you watch him like a hawk and try to get things that could be dangerous out of his way beforehand or did you let him explore with minimal supervision?

The first full week that he had access to the whole house we watched him very closely.  We wanted to make sure that Klaus didn’t start to assert his dominance by growling or biting him.  Within about 5 or 6 days, Klaus really became quite affectionate with Oskar and we could trust him fully.  By this time Oskar was also so comfortable with the layout of the rooms that he used only the main litter box (shared with Klaus) and could navigate everywhere without hitting the walls.  Of course we kept the layout of the place the same, minimized any floor clutter, and kept the inside doors open for consistency.  We also elevated the house plants that were on the floor because Oskar took an interest in climbing inside and digging out the dirt (Klaus never bothered the plants).

How did his big brother react? Do you think he could tell there was something different about Oskar?

The first three days that we had Oskar really bothered Klaus.  He growled at the door to Oskar’s room, was aggressive towards us, and would not lay with us while we watched TV or while we were in bed (he was with us 99% of the time before).  We were worried that we would have to divide our place for a long period of time until they could accept one another (Oskar was actually very happy to have a friend, so it was mainly Klaus’ issue).I think we also tried some special calming scent that was emitted from a diffuser that was supposed to calm cats, but it didn’t seem to do much.  After three days of Klaus’ protesting, we began to slowly introduce Oskar by keeping him on our lap for a while and letting Klaus sniff him.  Once he realized that we cared for the little guy and he wasn’t going anywhere, he began to tolerate him more and more.  He quit batting at him and growling about five days or a week after the adoption (we think that’s very good — we knew Klaus would tolerate him because he was living in a room with other cats and kittens at the shelter where we adopted him from).I am sure Klaus could detect something was a bit off about Oskar.  Cats, like most predators, look at facial cues to determine mood, aggressiveness, intent, etc..  I am sure the eyes are critical to this.  The cool thing is that despite having no eyes, Oskar can still move the facial muscles around the eyes so you can still read his face.  I can tell when he’s squinting, or when his eyes would be big and wide open, for example doing play time.

Do you believe Oskar has a better sense of smell and/or hearing to make up for the lack of seeing?

 I don’t think Oskar’s other senses are stronger, but because he relies on them so much, he can utilize them more efficiently.  His sense of hearing is vital.  His ears are always pointed forward and he moves his head around capturing the stereo sound spectrum.
He can pounce with full accuracy on anything making noise or emitting vibrations, such as when I wiggle my index finger under a blanket.  Honestly, I think he has very little disadvantage at all!  He also spends time running around the walls jumping as high as he can and feeling for ledges, etc., that he may be able to climb on.  At this point he can get up on anything in the house and Klaus has no safe refuge!  Oskar can even jump onto the bed or his big cat tree from a full run.  It’s truly amazing to watch!

What advice would you give to someone considering adopting a blind cat?

Advice to anyone adopting a blind cat is as follows.  You don’t have to alter your environment too much — a blind cat can adapt very quickly.  You will not have to clean up messes either — Oskar never made one mess anywhere and he learned to use a litter box from the first day.Basically, don’t be afraid of the challenge, because the cat will prove to you that he or she can still do all the normal “cat things” despite the missing sense.  I would strongly suggest that all blind cats stay indoors, however, unless supervised on a harness.

Does Oskar stay on the ground mostly or does he climb?

Oskar climbs anything and everything!  I don’t even remember a time that we had to rescue him from a ledge which he climbed and couldn’t get down from.  He is pretty darn brave.

Does Oskar sleep with you or does he have a special place he sleeps? Does he snuggle like some cats do?

Oskar sleeps in three different places each night. He starts off on the floor next to our bed. He then transfers to the sock-monkey cat bed that’s on the night stand next to the bed (we actually have one on each side of the bed now, my wife found another one of the same pet beds). He will get in the cat bed even if Klaus is already using it. They snuggle up then.

By 4am he’s in bed with us. While Klaus likes to sleep on my chest for part of the night, Oskar chooses the bottom portion by our feet. He does come up by my head by 7am and I have to cuddle and pet him for a while. Although he is not a lap cat like Klaus (yet), he will get there soon. For the past couple of weeks he has been more and more needy and affectionate. He has also become more vocal too. I think he is learning all these things from Klaus.

Any other words of advice for someone adopting a kitten/cat with any type of special need? Or just considering a cat in general?

If you are considering adopting an animal, you clearly want to spend time with it.  A special needs animal may need a bit of extra care (in Oskar’s case we do wipe off his eye lids a couple of times per day to minimize risk of infection), but that’s a perfect time for you to bond!
I suppose the main thing is to give a home to those animals who need it the most.  You don’t become cool by buying a $3500 cat or dog from a puppy breeder so you can show it off like a Rolex watch.  Hey, we adopted the blind cat nobody wanted and he became an international celebrity — now that’s cool!
Last bit of our advice:  cats live a longer and happier life when they are kept indoors.  Consider adult animals too — we got Klaus when he was fully grown and he is amazing. I know many people want a kitten or puppy, but you can really see the character of an adult animal and it’s easier to find the right match.  Oh yeah, don’t remove the claws — that’s what makes a cat a cat!  We also discourage ear cropping or cutting of the tails in dog breeds.  Leave nature alone people — you can’t improve on perfection!

Update:

 Oskar & Klaus now have a store – http://www.oskarandklaus.com/
And Oskar won the Friskes best cat video award..
this was the video that  won:
Watch the replay of the show here – http://www.thefriskies.com/
Go say hi & congrats – https://www.facebook.com/BlindOskar
Check out the blog  at http://www.blindoskar.com/
Author’s Note: I would like to thank Mick & Bethany for letting me do the very first ever animal article interview and being so patient with me as I got everything together. Congratulations on the award for Oskar and hopefully there will be many more in the future! =^.^=

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