Saturday, September 25, 2010

Living with a blind cat: Lessons from Lucy

Blind cat Lucy sharing a dog bed with her pug
This is Lucy, and she was born with a condition called anophthalmia.  This means, in layman's terms, that she was born without actual eye globes.  She had functional tear ducts, eye muscles, eye lashes and lids, and she probably even had a working optic nerve, but she had no actual eye globes to see with.

I've been seeing a lot of books and Web sites lately that discuss the "miracle" of blind cats and how much the animal taught the owner about life.  I am skeptical of this idea.  Lucy has been blind since birth.  I do not feel that she overcomes her blindness, just as I don't feel my daily life is proof that I overcome my inability to do nuclear physics.  One cannot miss what one has never had.

Lucy sees with her other senses.  She spends a lot of time doing concentric circles, looking for the edges of rooms and the curves of furniture.  She meows and cocks her head, listening for an echo, to determine how big a room is.  She puts her nose in the air and sniff, sniff, sniffs to determine what has changed. 

Her blindness does mean that she is braver than my other cats.  She cannot see danger, and therefore is pretty resistant to fear.  She is the first to greet new people who come into the house.  She wanders outside if we leave the door open accidentally, without crouching to the ground.  When we moved into this house, she was the first to explore all of the rooms. 

People often congratulate me for owning a disabled pet, as though it is noble, in some way, to have a defective animal as part of your family.  I am, again, baffled by this idea.  Lucy does not demand extra attention or breaks, therefore, it's easy to forget about her disability.  She lives her life fairly normally, and I, in turn, fully accept her without expecting some sort of award for tolerating her.

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