Meet Phaedra

Who is Phaedra?

She is a cat.

How did Phaedra come into your life?

Her feline momma “Puss”, who is one of the feral cats we feed, gave birth to four kittens under our house, actually in our sub-floor (we could see them through the air-conditioning intake vent). She finally moved them out and weeks later my neighbor Amanda called to tell me two kittens were on the side of the road. I met Amanda outside and when we went to check on them, one took off running and one hunkered down. As soon as I picked that one up, I knew right away by her eyes that she was blind and she froze due to not being able to hear which way her sibling went. I took her right to our Vet (Dr. Jim Bader, Mapleview Animal Hospital), he confirmed my suspicions and said we’d do a recheck on her in two weeks. Phaedra never hissed, spit, growled or bit, like most feral  cats do, so we started taking care of her (and Amanda became her Auntie Amanda as she has helped with kitty-sitting, bathing, snuggles, etc.)

What caused Phaedra’s blindness?

She is diagnosed with “Micro-Opthalmia”, which technically means tiny pupils, however on her second visit to the Vet, it’s confirmed that her eyeballs are smaller than average and that she actually has no pupils at all! Some people think her eyes are creepy looking, however I absolutely love looking at them because to me they are like looking at two beautiful white/blue opals. It’s said that “the eyes are the windows to your soul”, well… looking at hers, you see how pure her heart and soul are.

Where did the name Phaedra come from?

It comes from Greek Mythology: Phaedra’s name derives from the Greek word φαιδρός (phaidros), which meant “bright”. We call her Phae, for short, which in mystical legends (and a video game), the “Fae” are mystical fairies that have special powers.
Phaedra fits both names as she is very bright (both in personality and intelligence) and being “special” (not handicapped, as most would refer to her as), she uses all of her other senses and touch to get along like the average cat (hence the special powers).
(“thank you Wikipedia for definitions”)

On a side note: We did have 6 cats (“Brady Bunch” of cats actually with 3 boys, 3 girls), Hades & Purrsephone, Comet, Pooh Bear, Clover & Hera. We lost Pooh to Renal Lymphoma on 9/19/11. We always referred to our cats as “2-P’s, 2-C’s & 2-H’s” or “PCH squared”. With losing Pooh, it broke the flow, so my husband, Fred, decided her name should start with the letter “P” in Pooh’s memory.

Have you ever been a guardian to a blind cat before?

I’ve never dealt with a blind cat before but have dealt with many other feline issues:
Hades, has hip and urinary issues, Purrsephone has immune issues (Hades & Purrs are siblings that I’ve had since they were 3 weeks old). They both have sensitive stomach’s so I am careful with what food they eat.
Comet has Feline Diabetes and gets insulin shots twice a day (he was on the table to get euthanized at the shelter I volunteered for because he was “mean”, when my friend grabbed him, stuffed him in a carrier and said as she handed him over, “I know you can teach him how to love!”). He also suffers from head tremors, which is why he drools and his tongue sticks out 95% of the time.
Other than being just plain fat and lazy, Clover has skin allergies as well as a touchy tummy.
Last, but not least, Hera is claustrophobic (yep, I said claustrophobia, I know she’s weird).

Side note: My husband, Fred, is legally blind (nope, not kidding), so for us not to keep a blind animal, would be hypocritical of us!

What are some of the challenges you faced when bringing her into your home?

At first, we needed to keep her “quarantined”, so we set up a crate in the bathroom for her to stay in until she was old enough to get tested for FIV, etc and be cleared by the Vet.
Next, most of the toys I had around the house were toys without bells or squeakers, so I immediately set out to find toys that she could hear and/or had different textures, so she could learn from them and be able to follow them. She has a lot of human baby toys that rattle, crinkle and squeak (thank you thrift stores). Her favorite is a stuffed ducky that has a rattle in the tummy and a crinkle tail
Most importantly, I wanted her to learn where things were, so I regularly showed her the litter box, food dishes, water bowl, kitty condo, but she has an amazing memory and learns quick! She conquered the couch all by herself and when she knows she’s up high, she will take a “leap of faith” to get down.
Lastly, I’m bit of a  “pack rat”, so I moved a lot of things to give her the most space, however she was plodding ahead at full speed before I could carry out most of it.

Does Phaedra have any fur siblings?

Hades taking a nap..with his mouth open.

She now lives with 5 older cats. Hades & Purrsephone will be 13 years old on 10/01, Comet will be 12 years old on 9/15, Clover will be 11 years old on 10/29 and Hera just turned 7 years old on 3/17. (Coincidentally, Hera showed up at our door on Father’s Day 2005 & I rescued Phaedra the day after Mother’s Day this year, so my husband & I got special presents)
Hades and Hera both love playing with her! She plays a bit more rough with Hades than she does with Hera (as she doesn’t like to be backed in corners, hence her claustrophobia). Purrsephone and Comet both share a common “tolerance” for her. She hears them as they walk by and will chase them from one end of the house to the other. Purrs has figured out if she’s quick enough and jumps high enough, she can do her “chicken hawk” imitation and watch Phaedra try to find her! Comet lets her chase him, but then (like Purrs) will hide on her, however he’s not as stealthy as Purrs and often gets caught.
Clover is too fat and sassy to have any patience for Phaedra, but has been seen sharing dinner and a drink or two. I believe it’s the endless amounts of energy Phaedra has that intimidates the slow moving hairball that is Clover, and she just can’t understand why she has to bounce around like Tigger from Winnie the Pooh.
Phaedra knows her boundaries and can tell by scent who’s who and how much she can get away with… usually. The big cats all know what to do and where to go when they’ve simply “had enough”, as I have “safe zones” for them that Phaedra is unaware of… so far.

Side note: The kitten sibling that we saw her with outside, has since been rescued and lives 3 doors down and goes by the name of “Bootsie”. The last two kittens in her litter were also rescued and sent to find “forever homes”.

Have you always been involved with animals?

Myself, I have ALWAYS loved animals and tried to get involved with them in some capacity. I dreamed of being a veterinarian, but being asthmatic and allergic to all animals, I thought it would be too big of a risk. I was a volunteer at our local shelter for a few years, have done animal photography, did animal sitting and worked with local Greyhound rescues.
My husband has always considered himself a “dog person”, however I think he’s slowly changing his mind (or crossing over to the dark side, as I put it)

~sorry, Phaedra just crawled up and stood on the keyboard, apparently wanting to put in her 2 cents worth or just say hello!!

Phaedra helps unwrap packages

Is Phaedra a part of a shelter/organization?

She’s not part of any shelter or organization, but the inspiration for our Phaedra & Phriends Facebook page, where we welcome others that have “special” animals and animal lovers to share theirs stories and watch Phae grow.
We do want to get her registered as a “therapy cat”, as she has an awesome temperament and very tolerant of children. What better way for a “special needs” child not to feel different or ashamed of how they are, if a blind kitty can do anything!
She regularly goes over to Auntie Amanda’s and plays with her three boys (Paul, Bentley & Chance, all under the age of 3) and even though boys are a bit rough, she let’s them and has not even scratched them! She’s already visited people at the Grand Pines Assisted Living facility in Grand Haven, MI, where my parents are residents. Everyone loved her and she loved them!

How can people give funds towards Phaedra’s care?

(I noticed you were asking for help)

We would love that! Everyone knows that sometimes taking on “special” fur babies comes with financial burdens. Besides her blindness, Phaedra has a large hernia that will get  repaired when she gets spayed on 8/14 and then she will receive her “big girl” shots. I would do anything for my babies (including bread and water or Ramen noodles for life, if I had to), so I vow to take care of and spoil her, as I do my others. Her eyes do tend to get runny, but not from infection, so that is something we are watching closely.
On top of my own animals, I feed the feral cats around our house and if they need medication, I treat them. So far this year, we (including help from my neighbors) have rescued, treated and/or found homes for 9 kittens. Sadly one passed away due to infection, while being treated at the Headin’ Home Pet Rescue, which is connected with our Vet. I’ve also had to bury 3 more kittens I was unable to help. I take their loss very personally and shed many tears for them for my failure to help them. So I do not forget why I need to help more, they are buried in our yard with a memorial plant.

Phaedra’s “Chip-in” Fund:

There’s 2 ways to help out!!!
#1 – A PayPal account is set up under the email name of:
#2 – Donations can be sent to:
Mapleview Animal Hospital (for Phaedra & Phriends)
185 Panther Drive, Holland MI 49424

The funds donated will go towards her surgery is to fix her large hernia, along with getting spayed is scheduled for August 14!! They will also check her heart murmur to see if it is clearing up and examine her eyes (hopefully, no future surgery on those). 🙂

Phaedra’s pocket sized and ready to go.

Any words of recommendation for someone thinking of becoming a guardian to an animal with a disability?

Plain and simple: DO IT!
There is nothing more rewarding than to help something as amazing and as innocent as animal in need. Yes, there are always challenges but what you get in return… their unconditional love, that’s make it all worth it. Whether you’re married, single, whatever… a fuzzy face to greet you when you walk in the door, snuzzle you at night, make you laugh when you’re sad… there’s nothing better.

Anything else you would like to add?

Phaedra is an amazing creature! She spins in circles and charges ahead full speed, not even caring if she runs into anything. Every once in a while, she stops, makes a chirping noise (hard to describe as it’s not a full meow), and then waits for us to let her know where we are. She doesn’t coming running, when we respond, she was just “checking in”. She also loves listening to a recording of our late Pooh Bear purring! She gets all schmooze and rubs on the cell phone when my husband plays it for her. We joke that he has been “ghost whispering” in her ear, as she does a few things that only Pooh did.

Even though it drives my husband crazy and he wishes I wasn’t always so “animal consumed”, like moving turtles off the road, sitting next to a dying deer in the middle of winter, while waiting for police to come put it down (true story, we were driving past it, it looked at me, and I had to stop), or just plain stopping to look at the tiniest things. I’ve been referred to as a “pied piper”, “the kitten whisperer”, an “angel”… I always just say I’m more like the Grinch who stole Christmas “when his heart grew three sizes that day”. I was an adopted child and what I got was my heart growing three times that day.

Kitten Burrito!

Author’s Note:
I want to thank Phaedra and her guardian/mom for answering my endless questions about Phae and introducing me to the other cats in the family. =^.^= All pictures were used with permission including the kitten burrito picture.