Lessons from adopting a blind kitten: Be brave and have fun
Like most kittens, Hail loves to explore the world around her. She can spend hours checking out rooms in the Brooklyn apartment where she lives with her adopters, Olivia and Johan. And she loves playing with toys and with Olivia, Johan and their friends. There is one thing, though, that sets Hail apart from other kittens: She is blind, due to a neurological condition. But that doesn’t stop her from finding joy daily, and sharing it with everyone she meets.
Saving kittens in New York
The streets of New York City are no place for a little kitten. But that’s where baby Hail was found at just about a month old before she was brought to Animal Care Centers of New York City (ACC). Best Friends works in partnership with ACC to save the lives of the city’s homeless pets, and together they decided that the kitten nursery at the Best Friends Pet Adoption Center in New York City would be the very best place for Hail.
There, little Hail could get the care she needed to grow healthy and strong. And when she was ready to be adopted, she could get lots of personal attention from the staff, and have the very best chance at finding a home.
Soon after arriving at the kitten nursery, Hail went to live with a foster family who helped her learn about life in a home. “She was a sassy, rambunctious girl, and she needed a little more time to acclimate to her environment,” says Jeanette McManus, foster and adoptions coordinator at the center. “She needed a family who could understand how to help her calm down when she gets overstimulated and frustrated.”
When she started gaining confidence and independence, her foster family brought her back to the adoption center. It was time for Hail to find a special home.
Connecting to a blind kitten’s story
Olivia and Johan had been looking for a cat to adopt for a while, but they hadn’t made a strong connection with any they had met. Then one day, Olivia checked out the adoptable cats on the adoption center’s website and saw Hail’s sweet tabby face with her perfect little white muzzle, which makes her look as if she has a milk moustache. Olivia’s heart went out to the tiny kitten who’d had a difficult start in life.
Olivia went down to the adoption center to meet Hail, and as soon as she saw the sweet kitten through the window, she thought she might have finally found the cat she would love for a very long time.
Olivia learned a lot about Hail on that first visit. She learned that the kitten was as sweet as she looked, that she’s delightfully mischievous, and that being blind didn’t bother her one bit.
A few days after meeting Hail, Olivia returned to the adoption center with Johan, and that made the decision final. “We knew she had a neurological problem and that she can’t see,” says Olivia, “but for us it was no big deal.” When they left, their family had grown by one. Hail had found a home.
Honoring a blind kitty’s special needs
While Olivia and Johan didn’t see Hail’s lack of sight as an obstacle, they still knew that from day one they’d have to find ways to honor Hail’s special needs.
When they brought Hail home, they kept her in a smaller room so she could get used to that one first. But before the night was over, she was ready to start exploring her brand new home. “She didn’t want to stay by herself,” says Olivia. “She wanted to discover everything. We worried because it’s such a big place, but then she started running.”
As it turns out, Hail is quite the athlete. She begins the day with some sprints up and down the hallway. Then she spends the rest of the day climbing the furniture and playing with toys. She squeezes in a run before dinner time, and then plays a little more.
Brave young cat
Rest is important for all athletes, and that’s true for Hail, too. She loves to cuddle with Olivia and Johan. “She always wants to be close to us,” says Olivia. She has brought so much happiness to both of them, greeting them at the door when they come home after being away.
When Olivia looks at Hail, she sees bravery. And that has encouraged her to be braver, too. “She’s not afraid of anything,” says Olivia. “It’s as if she’s not blind. She thinks she can do anything, and it has really left an impression on me. It’s made me be a little braver, too.”
Photos by Stacey Axelrod and Olivia Tiffoche