Blind, deaf kitten shows the meaning of resilience
If there’s any kitten who deserves an award for resilience, it’s Midnight. By all accounts, it’s amazing he’s alive, given that he was found in poor shape in a backyard, just four weeks old and weighing just one pound.
Over the next several weeks, Midnight would experience numerous health challenges, including one that would take his sight and hearing. Considering all this: What kind of future could Midnight possibly have? Turns out, a bright one.
Many people came together to help Midnight, including a fast-acting good Samaritan, a veterinary hospital staff that never gave up and the team at Best Friends in New York, which included a determined foster volunteer who knew two weeks after meeting Midnight that he was home for good.
Kitten is a champion at defying the odds
Midnight’s story began in June when he was found alone in a backyard in Valley Stream, New York. With no mom cat in sight, the person who discovered Midnight brought him to a veterinary hospital. Hypothermic and so malnourished that he had to be fed through a tube and a syringe every few hours, Midnight was also sick. Vets found that he had conjunctivitis, an upper respiratory infection and a virus that upset his stomach.
It took days of intensive care and medication, but eventually Midnight recovered and began to perk up and gain weight. Things were going according to plan as the tiny kitten regained health, but when it came time for his neuter surgery, Midnight’s heart stopped when he was under anesthesia.
The team at the animal hospital saved his life a second time — this time getting his little heart beating again. He was alive, and he recovered from the ordeal but it had a lasting impact. In the coming weeks, it became clear that he’d suffered neurological damage. He’d lost his hearing and most of his sight.
Despite this new set of challenges, he was a friendly, purring, sweet little guy, and he was already beginning to adapt to vision and hearing loss. Since it was time for him to graduate out of the hospital and go to a home, he was brought to Best Friends in New York for help placing him.
The best place for him was in a foster home, says Zoelle Lane, Best Friends coordinator in New York. "Since he was still showing some symptoms (from his previous medical issues), he could be watched in a foster home while also continuing to be assessed by the vet."
It didn't take long to find him a foster home with someone who had already helped other kittens navigate life with special needs. Finally, a new day was dawning for Midnight.
Fostering a kitten with special needs
Danielle Kraljic, a Best Friends foster volunteer with a soft spot for cats with special needs, stepped in to help. In addition to once fostering a blind and deaf kitten, she adopted a kitten named Atticus who was incontinent and had kidney disease and a curve in his spine. Danielle was told that with supportive care Atticus could live weeks to months. Instead, he lived for three and a half years.
It was Atticus who inspired Danielle to foster Midnight, although she would probably be the first to tell you that it took a while to figure out how best to keep him comfortable and safe, even while doing everyday things: eating, drinking and using the litter box. “He walked like he was drunk and had a permanent head bobble,” she says.
Caring for an animal who’s deaf and blind requires trial and error to figure out what works best. The environment must be crafted to suit the pet’s needs, and every pet is a little different. At first, the act of going to the bathroom alone would throw Midnight off balance so much that he would fall into the box and get messy. So, Danielle kept trying different litter boxes until she found the one that worked for him.
She also discovered that Midnight is a sloppy eater. “Kibble shoots out in every direction when he eats his dry food,” she says, adding that he splashes water everywhere when he drinks. The winning solution was a raised bowl.
She planned out the placement of cat beds and furniture, and made sure things stay in the same place so Midnight knows where everything is, even though he can’t see.
Danielle added more throw rugs to give him extra traction when he walks around. Because he enjoys lying on her bed, she switched to a low bed frame so he can get up more easily. She’s placed pet steps at the couch and bed. But instead of using them, he smacks Danielle’s legs with his paws or flops onto her legs until she picks him up.
Now that he’s bigger, Midnight can get onto the bed and couch by himself, as long as he has a running start. It’s just another way he has proven that nothing can hold him back in life.
Survivor kitten has a home
“Within two weeks or so of fostering him, I knew I wanted to keep him, but it wouldn’t have been fair to adopt him unless all of my cats accepted him,” says Danielle. The resident cats weren’t fans of the little black kitten at first, but with time, they came around. Danielle has caught South and Midnight sleeping together. Meanwhile, Miss K. tolerates him and Scout likes to clean him. All of this has worked wonders for Midnight, too. “His interactions with my cats have been helpful in increasing his confidence,” says Danielle.
Seeing him curled up, asleep with her cats, convinced her that he’d already become a part of the family, so she made it official and adopted him.
Considering all the adjustments that Danielle has made, how is Midnight doing? In short, fantastic. “He’s got a big personality and is clingy, affectionate, silly, playful, social and interactive with everyone, including strangers,” Danielle says, noting that he’s also mischievous — stealing things such as keys and money out of her bag, a new favorite activity.
Midnight (who is now called Goose) doesn’t know that he’s different from his feline siblings. “He wants to do the same things they do,” says Danielle. “The more confident he gets, the more he wants to explore and try new things.”
Now she encourages foster families and adopters not to overlook animals with special needs. “They have so much love to give,” says Danielle, noting that she’s connected with Midnight on a deep level. “My experiences with animals with special needs have had a profound impact on me, but it’s really hard to put into words,” she says. “To really understand, you need to experience it yourself.”
Adopt, and prepare to be inspired
Right now, there’s a cat (or kitten like Midnight) at your local shelter with an inspiring story who’s waiting for a home. Why not make it yours?