Two blind cats, an RV and a happy life

Stormy Shafer holding Abby the Siamese cat
After a difficult goodbye to her blind cat of 17 years, Stormy’s life and RV are again filled with cat purrs, snuggles and songs.
By Sarah Thornton

Stormy Shafer always had a furry family member in her life — to love, care for and be loved by in return. And for 17 years, that very important position was occupied by Idgie, a sweet, petite grey-and-white cat born blind and diagnosed with the feline leukemia virus (FeLV).

“I knew from the moment I met her she was going to be very special in my life,” says Stormy. Idgie was the one — that pet who changes everything just by her very presence. But FeLV is tough on kittens’ weak immune systems; consequently, Stormy thought their time together would be short.

Idgie squarely beat those odds, though. And when Stormy decided to move full time into an RV in 2018, senior Idgie, the perfect little co-pilot, was right there with her. “She loved traveling and she loved meeting new people,” Stormy says. “She was very social and just the best little pal ever. I was so happy to have her with me.”

When Idgie’s health started to decline and it was time to say that final farewell, Stormy was devastated. With a gently, quietly sung “You Are My Sunshine” to see her off, life changed all over again. Stormy traveled by herself for a year, unprepared to fill that empty co-pilot seat. The loneliness was weighing heavily on her. “I had no other heartbeat in my space,” she says.

She began searching earnestly for a pair of friendly felines to accompany her on her travels. Remembering Idgie, she knew that she wanted to adopt blind cats — two of them, so they would never feel lonely when she had to leave the RV. But finding two blind kitties around the same age was no easy feat, and she spent another year searching.

Then she recalled a place she had donated to for 30 years but had never visited. Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, with plenty of kitties needing homes, was where she found just who she was looking for.

Photo courtesy of Stormy Shafer

Finding new kitty love

Stormy first spotted Amore on the Best Friends website. The tabby had lost both of her eyes due to a chronic ocular disease, and her face captured Stormy’s heart. So began a 700-mile round trip to the Sanctuary to meet her.

“I immediately knew Amore was gonna work out,” Stormy says, remembering their first meeting. “She was so affectionate, social, sweet and funny. She has such a personality.” And while Amore was cuddling up and working her magic on her adopter-to-be, Stormy spotted a Siamese cat with just one cloudy eye perched up on a scratching tree.

[97 kittens, an RV and one lifesaving mission]

Escalante was found on the side of the road, dazed and in rough shape, and though she had recovered physically, she was still somewhat withdrawn. “I went over and petted her, and she was startled a little bit,” says Stormy. “She was sweet but kind of shut down. But the more I touched her … she was fine. In fact, she kind of nuzzled into me, and that was it.”

Stormy already knew what she would call the pair. Amore became Tallie, and Escalante became Abigail (after the main characters of the movie The World to Come). The pair easily settled into their new traveling home. Abigail became a Velcro kitty, always sticking close to Stormy, and Tallie was always close by. Once again, Stormy’s RV was filled with the sounds of purring and playing, with only the occasional hiss as they adjusted to life in their new space.

Photo courtesy of Stormy Shafer

A loving life on the road 

“They’re both really sweet and have very, very different personalities, but they complement each other," says Stormy, adding that both kitties have sides to them similar to Idgie. "I’m just really happy they’re here.”  

Stormy got a cat condo so the two could hang out together, and she made sure there was always a rotating pile of toys. “I have one hallway that’s about three feet wide and maybe 10 or 15 feet long,” she explains, “and it’s just riddled with all these cat toys.” When Tallie and Abby lose interest in one batch of toys, Stormy gathers them up, sticks them in a bag filled with catnip and then sets out a different bunch. Anything that makes noise is a good candidate toy for the pair, with crinkly balls and squeaky wand toys at the top of the list. 

Then there are the food puzzles. “I learned with Idgie that (blind cats) really need something to keep their minds occupied or they’re going to be bored, so, I bought one of those Outward Hound food puzzles, Stormy says, then adds with a laugh: “They’ve figured it out, so they can go through (food) really fast now. It doesn’t take them hours like it did at first, so I’m going to have to see if I can find another food puzzle.”

[Blind cat sees a world of good in everyone and everything]

When Stormy is driving, Tallie and Abby settle right down for a nap. When they’re parked, Stormy has a tent-tunnel playpen where the pair can get out and safely enjoy all the new smells and sounds of their surroundings. And when it’s quiet, she sings to them.

“Tallie has a cinnamon-colored nose,” she explains, “and sometimes I sing to her to the tune of Neil Young’s ‘Cinnamon Girl’:

“I got a cat with a cinnamon nose,
She has no eyes and sweet little toes,
She’s my Cinnamon Nose.”

Abby doesn’t yet have her song but while Stormy waits for inspiration to strike, she finds herself once again singing “You Are My Sunshine.” Only this time, there’s a smile on her face as she repeats the melody.

Photo courtesy of Stormy Shafer

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