If you had a baby, and she was born blind, would you get rid of her?  Of course not!  You would take her home and love her, just as you would, had she been a sighted baby.  But of course you would have to make a few adjustments. 

You would have to watch her to see that she was safe at all times.  Although she would not be favored over your other children, you would have to make a few compensations.

And that is exactly the way I found it to be having a blind cat.  At the time Helen-Keller joined our family I had three other cats.  I did not want - nor need - another cat. 

Baby was a beautiful chocolate-lynx-point, one-year-old Himalayan cat, with long, creamy-silk hair: perfect qualifications for becoming a Grand Champion show cat. That is what she was bred to be; and she would have won hands-down, except for one thing. She was born with PRA, (Progressive Retinal Atrophy): blindness. No use as a show cat, no use as a breeder, she would have to be put down.  But … there was an alternative - me.

I was helping out a cat-breeder friend when I first spotted her.  She was sitting a-top a feed container.  As I approached her, she looked up at me, her sky-blue eyes sparkling.  She yawned.  Not knowing anything about her at the time, I stoked her head and said, "Oh, hello, you gorgeous kitty.  What's your name?"  And that is when I was told that her name was Helen-Keller.

"That's a strange name for a cat," I replied.  "The Helen-Keller I know of was blind."

"Exactly," said my friend.  "And that is why I named her that.  She is blind."

I couldn't get this cat out of my mind for the longest time.  But eventually life blotted out the memory of this strikingly beautiful - but blind - kitty.  Until one day I got a phone call from my friend ... And that phone call resulted in my taking Helen-Keller into our home. 

The night before the little cat came, I had visions of having to carry her around in a basket the rest of her life, taking her with me wherever I went, to protect her from all the dangers my imagination was conjuring up.  I was having second thoughts.  But what if I didn't take her?  What was the alternative?   A cat breeder cannot have a handicapped cat … First off, I decided, during my nighttime reveries, her name would have to be changed.  Helen-Keller was too awkward a name for such a small cat.  And "Helen" was out of the question.  We did not need two Helens in the house … That's it!  I would call her "Baby."  

I will never forget that first day "Baby" joined our family.  My illusions of toting this helpless, blind cat around in a basket flew out the window the minute she set foot in the house.  Cautiously I set her down, keeping an eye on Queenie, Ernie, and Casper, our other three cats.  Duffy, the dog, had already met Baby during our trip home.  He thought she was just fine, but then, Duffy accepted every living creature as being just fine.

Baby began exploring.  With me following her like a bloodhound sniffing prey, the cat explored every nook and cranny in each room of the house.  She walked around, rather than bumping into, furniture, as if she had some sort of built-in radar.  And it was then that I noticed her exceptionally long whiskers.  "Pussy-footing" her way into the living room, she climbed up onto the sofa and other furniture, then cautiously climbed down again.  She sniffed her way down the hall until she came to the bathroom, where the kitty litter box was.  Gingerly, she stepped into it, used it, covered her business, and more confidently, stepped out again, resuming her inspection of her new surroundings. 

Now where was her food?  Her rounds weren't complete without knowing where her food was. Seeing her sniffing around, I steered her in the direction of where I had put down some of her familiar food, in a special place where the other cats wouldn't bother her. She began eating.  Since she would have to share a water dish with the other cats, I showed her where that was.  One showing was all she needed.  As for the other cats, they curiously eyed her from a distance, and then went back to their sleeping.  Baby was home to stay. 

And how was life with Baby from then on?  Fine!  And fun!  Baby fit in so well that after she had been here a week, it was as if she had been born here. 

Baby was a member of our family for five years.  But on September 18th, 2002, at the age of six, she succumbed to PKD- (Polycystic Kidney Disease is characterized by large cysts in one or both kidneys and a gradual loss of normal kidney tissue which can lead to chronic renal failure.) I first noticed her symptoms when she stopped asking for her special treat, whipped topping.  I prayed that she wouldn't suffer long, and my prayers were answered.  Daily she became weaker, refusing any kind of nourishment, even from a syringe.  Knowing that her end was near, since I was aware of her disease, I fixed up a small box, with a warm, hot water bottle in the bottom, and wrapped her up in the towel.  Thankfully I had to be away that day; otherwise I would have been watching her constantly.  When I arrived home at four that afternoon, she was in exactly the same position as when I had left her.  Our Baby had left us, out of pain and into peace.  Needless to say, we missed her.  The house seemed strangely vacant with her gone.


To read in Baby's own words what life is like as a blind cat, click here

If you enjoyed this story by Helen, check out these stories:

Do Kitties Have Angels?

Finders’ Keepers’, Losers’ Weepers’

The Shadow and the Chick

The Very Best Toy for Cats

"Of all the [cat] toys available, none is better designed than the owner himself. A large multipurpose plaything, its parts can be made to move in almost any direction. It comes completely assembled, and it makes a noise when you jump on it."

Stephen Baker

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