by Brooke Billingsley
Not long ago, I joined the online “special needs” cat community. The community is large, overwhelmingly large. I came across Louie the blind cat on Instagram (@louie_blind_cat) and found a lovely support in his fur mom, Kerry. Kerry featured Aslan on Louie’s Instagram page, giving Aslan exposure and opening a world of support within the special needs pet community. When you first see Louie, it is clear that he is different. His big, blue eyes catch your attention right away, and in my case it left me wanting to know more about this special boy. I reached out to Kerry to get more information on Louie’s back story, life, and needs, so I could share him with you.
Kerry wasn’t looking for a cat and came across Louie by chance, or in this case I think it was fate. Her parent’s neighbor’s cat had had a litter of kittens. Kerry went to see them, because who turns down an opportunity to see kittens? Unfortunately, the neighbor was dismissive of Louie due to his appearance and the other cats sensed Louie was different, so had kicked him out of the litter. He was nested on top of a laundry basket, only four weeks old, when Kerry met him. He was a scrawny thing, but his giant blue eyes left an impression. After leaving, she couldn’t stop thinking about little Louie and only a couple of days later, Kerry returned, paid the neighbor 20 pounds, and the rest is history.
When asked about Louie’s medical conditions, here’s what Kerry had to say about his eyes, “His eyes have never been formerly diagnosed. I took him to multiple vets when he was a baby and they all told me that he didn’t have tear ducts and probably no irises. There was nothing that could be done so no point taking him to a specialist. At this point they told me he may be prone to eye infections, so would need tear drops and we would take it as it comes. If his eyes became problematic, we would talk of removing them. His eyes have caused little to no issues in nearly 8 years. I don’t even use tear drops, rarely they look a bit gunky and I wash with warm water salt solution.
I myself began to doubt that he had no irises. It became difficult to know if he was responding to light or whether his adaption to being blind just gave a false sense of sight (if that makes sense). But I was fairly sure I could see him squint at times when a light was turned on. And then since starting Louie’s Instagram @vegan_veterinarian reached out to me and told me he likely had corneal endothelial dystrophy caused by embryonic damage. I can’t say for sure this is absolutely what he has since he hasn’t been examined but it would make sense.”
Louie also has luxating patellas, which is a condition where the patellas, or kneecaps, slide in and out of place on their own. This diagnosis can range from a mild nuisance to painful and severe. In Louie’s case, Kerry says that when Louie was 4 years old he began to have pain and severe gait problems due to one of his knees. However, luxating patella repair in cats can be risky due to the small size of the bones, so Louie was prescribed a month of crate rest. This was a difficult time for Louie and family. It is difficult to explain to cats that you are helping them when they are being forced to do something they do not want to do, but this helped Louie’s knees and he was able to avoid surgery.
In September 2018, Louie had surgery to remove a mass under his tongue that was feared cancerous. Luckily, the biopsy came back as eosinophilic granuloma complex, stomatitis, and bacterial infection, all of which are benign diagnoses. While undergoing treatment for this, Louie was diagnosed with kidney disease at only 6 years old. His kidney disease is stable, though, and is primarily controlled by having water added to his food.
I asked Kerry how Louie’s blindness and kidney disease affect his daily life. Here’s what she told me, “It doesn’t feel like his diagnosis affects day to day life at all. Certainly not his eyes. But I’ve had years of adapting. We try to rarely move his things, food, water and litter tray. We have a baby gate up at the balcony door, and the windows are cat proofed. I talk to him all the time (as we all do) but also so he knows where I am. I try not to pick him up and move him from one room to another as it can be disorientating. I try to make sure no doors are shut when he’s playing. When he’s chasing his paper balls he won’t have time to use his whiskers to judge space and he will run straight into a closed door. I think his kidney disease affects ME the most. I worry about him a lot. But that’s not his concern, he’s fine.”
Kerry says her favorite trait of Louie’s is that he is a very sweet boy but, in typical cat fashion, demands affection only on his terms. He will quickly turn from loving to biting. He enjoys snuggling in bed with Kerry but will not sit on anyone’s laps. Louie has a tiny meow, almost kitten-like, but isn’t afraid to use that tiny meow to demand what he wants. His favorite treat is Dreamies (Temptations in the US) and he loves paper balls. He is currently starting to learn to enjoy catnip toys more as well. While Louie may be a sweet, albeit fickle, boy now, he has not always been this way.
In fact, for the first few years, Kerry says that Louie had major behavioral problems. “Up until the age of 2 or 2.5 he was very difficult. He suffered from anxiety and repetitive behaviours. He would run in frantic circles for 10 minutes at a time, I couldn’t soothe or stop him. He would sleep over my neck, close to my heart and upon waking he would try and attack my face because of disorientation. He would attack people that visited us. I’m not talking typical kitten play. He was aggressive. My arms and legs were covered in scratches for the first few years of his life… My biggest regret is not taking one of his litter mates.
It’s strange because during this time it never really occurred to me that this was what he needed. I think I was so consumed with dealing with his active behaviours that I didn’t have time to think. But in hindsight, another kitten would probably have eased his anxiety somewhat.” Kerry says that Louie is the “king of his domain” now and she is hesitant to bring another cat into the home at this point, but hopes that one day they will be able to.
Most importantly, Kerry says that even though she feels she had no idea what she was getting into when she took Louie home and the first few years were more difficult than she could have imagined, she never thought about giving up on Louie. She loved him with her whole heart and understood that he was struggling to adapt to a life without sight. She questioned herself at times, wondering if she was doing the best thing, but in the end love, time, and patience were the things Louie needed to have a full and happy life.
Here’s what Kerry had to say about life with a special needs pet, “All animals deserve love, if you have the time, money and capacity to help one that needs that extra help – the rewards will be amazing. But it’s not always easy, and some cats will be harder than others. Make sure you have a support system. Do it for the right reasons or don’t do it at all.”
Louie is a special boy who will brighten your day just by visiting his Instagram page. Kerry’s posts range from funny to though-provoking, and always highlight what a unique creature Louie is. If you want to support Kerry and Louie, here is a link to their Amazon wishlist: https://www.amazon.co.uk/hz/wishlist/ls/GMKOJ3V74UKX?ref_=wl_share.