Meet George the Handsome Deaf and Blind Cat

Who is George?

George is a very handsome cat.

George and his blue blankie

How old is George?

George will be 5 years old in September, 2012.

Where did the name George come from?

When I first laid eyes on George, I thought he was the most adorable and handsome male cat I had ever seen so I appropriately named him after the most adorable and handsome person, Mr. George Clooney.

How did he come into your life?

My parents were both living with me at the time and my Mother very much wanted a white, female kitty like one she had as a child.  We looked around at a number of shelters but could not find a white kitty.  In the meantime, I fell in love with a black adventurous male cat, Jack, at one of the shelters.  When I went back with my Mother to visit Jack before the adoption went through, we saw the most beautiful brother and sister orange tabbies and it was love at first sight.  We ended up taking all three home with us – Jack, George, and his sister Callie.

It’s mentioned on his page that he had an illness that resulted in him being blind and deaf, do you know what that illness was?

When George was approximately 7 months old, I observed what looked to be scratch marks on his face.  I thought it was strange as the cats never played or fought that rough.  When the wounds began appearing all over his body, my veterinarian immediately recognized it as Cryptococcus, a fungal infection.   This was confirmed with blood and biopsy tests.  It is unknown where he would have been exposed to the fungus as the other cats never became infected.  George went into a serious decline as the infection had been growing inside of him before it was visible on his body.  Anti-fungal medication does work but it takes a period of time before significant results are seen.  Unfortunately, George did not improve with the standard anti-fungal he was first given, and he continued to decline.  The infection became so bad that George had a feeding tube inserted and was too weak to use his litter box.  There were times I felt he had gone through enough and I should let him go.  It was a very difficult time as I was not sure of what was the best decision for him.  Given that he was so young, my vet supported my decision to keep fighting as she saw George trying to fight and she wanted to help him make it to his first birthday.  The vet knew that once we were able to fight the infection with the right anti-fungal, he would have a long, happy life.  After research done by both me and the vet, we switched George to a lesser known anti-fungal and after some time he began to show improvement.  The serious illness lasted approximately 3-4 months, but the entire healing process was quite long.  We celebrated accomplishments such as George being able to get in and out of the litter box on his own, George switching from being fed prescription high calorie wet food via a syringe into his mouth to eating on his own from a bowl, and George finally crawling back up onto the couch on his own.  Once it was apparent that George was no longer on the verge of death, the vet and I, and a vet eye specialist realized he had lost his sight and hearing from the infection.  I was saddened by this as I felt it would greatly affect his quality of life.  The vet assured me that cats successfully learn to cope with this, which George has.

George on the Beach

Does he have any siblings?

George lives with a 16 year old tabby named Sam, Jack the black adventurous cat, and his sister Callie.

Is he mainly an indoor cat?

George is an indoor cat, which is especially important given his disabilities.  All my cats are indoors and have plenty of toys and cat condos to play on.  Because George needs extra sensory stimulation, I do take him on supervised adventures.

Since George is blind and deaf how does he get around?

George adapted to being blind and deaf.  He walks around the house with his head lowered so that if he bumps into things, it will hit lightly on the top of his head rather than his face.  He walks slowly so it is rare that he would ever bump into anything with force.  George also uses his whiskers to help him feel his way, and he remembers the feel of the floor.   For example, on a rug in the living room is his favorite toy and a scratching box.  When he feels that rug, he knows where to find these items.  George is not afraid to get up on furniture.  As long as he can judge where the top of the furniture is with his paws, he will get on it.  He will not jump straight up onto a counter or something high as he cannot judge where the top is.  George had to learn how to get down from things he crawled onto.  He normally reaches his paws out to try to feel for the floor or a landing spot.  If he cannot feel one, he will let himself drop and he has learned what pieces of furniture are close to a wall.  For instance, when he gets off of the guest bed, he knows to jump down and immediately turn is body sideways mid-air because it is a narrow space and if he jumped straight out, he would hit the wall.  He learned this from experience and he remembers these important details!  He only has to hit a wall once to know how to adjust his dismount.  The great thing is that he doesn’t let these occasional bumps and crashes keep him from being adventurous.  In fact, he rotates his sleeping spot around the house, even on different floors of the house.  He spends anywhere from a few weeks to  a couple of months in one spot which is his designated sleeping spot, then he will suddenly change it.  I’m not sure what makes him decide to move, but I am glad that he isn’t afraid of trying new things.

George on the Boat (he’s really adventurous)

As I mentioned previously, George needs extra stimulation of his other senses to keep him from becoming bored.  It is important that George remain engaged with life.  George will spend time on our back deck which allows him to feel something different under his paws and fully take in the scents of the outside.  George also goes on camping trips to New Hampshire and has camped in a cabin as well as a tent.  During the day he lounges outside on the campsite in a play pen tent which is large enough to accommodate him, his litter box, food and water bowls, and a bed and toys.  He has gone on a pontoon boat and has spent time walking on a beach and sticking his paws in the lake.  George enjoys his adventures and his personality makes it possible for him to go on these trips.  Since the time George lost his sight and hearing, he no longer runs or jumps on things.  Because of his laid back nature, he can have these experiences without me being worried that he will escape and become lost.  I obviously watch him carefully and am right by his side, but George is happy to just take in the smell of the air, the sand or dirt under his paws, and the feel of the sun on his fur.

Anything else special you would like to share about George?

George is a handsome, loving, special boy and he has melted the hearts of others, some of whom have never liked cats!  I recently set up a FaceBook fan page for George under the name “George the Handsome Deaf and Blind Cat”.  There is quite a cat community on there and through this, I have discovered so many deaf and/or blind cats and dogs who are also living wonderful, full lives.  George is a happy cat who loves when his best friend comes for a visit.  He can smell her in the house and immediately gets on her lap and kneads on her (aka “makes cookies”).  George continues to stay on the anti-fungal medication as there may be residual Cryptococcus hiding in him since it did make it to his brain.  George also receives eye drops every day to keep the inflammation down in hopes that he will not lose his eyes.  As George can see some light, I am hopeful his eyes remain healthy.

George on the bed

What advice do you recommend for anyone thinking of adopting a cat that is blind, or deaf or both?

I feel that having a special needs kitty adds so much to my life.  I love all my cats but I truly get a lot from living with George.  I have seen how he has dealt with losing his sight and hearing which was scary for him at first.  I am so proud of him for not letting that stop him from living his life to the fullest.  When I have bad days or doubt myself, I look at George and am inspired by his attitude and willingness.  These special cats just want to be loved and feel safe in their home.  George adores being petted and rubbed and will give little kisses by licking my hand.  People should not hesitate to adopt a special kitty.  They should look at their house and be aware of some adjustments they may have to make such as not leaving their shoes or other items on the floor where a blind cat may be jumping off a piece of furniture.  The cat won’t know it is there and could hurt themselves if they land on it.  Also, let the cat know you are there before you suddenly put a hand on them.  If they are deaf or blind, they may not realize you are there and will jump when they feel your hand touch them.  I always give a little tap of my foot when approaching George and will place my hand close to his face so he can smell me first.  Then I will pet him without causing him to jump or be startled.  These are little adjustments to make and so worth what you get back in appreciation.  It may take a while for the cat to get used to the house and to map a route to the food bowl and litter box in their minds (if they are blind).  If a cat is deaf, or blind and deaf, you can tap your feet a certain way on the floor to alert them with the vibration that breakfast or dinner is served.  There is a lot of helpful information on the internet for tips on living with these special cats.  Don’t feel sorry for them!  Sure, it would be great if George had his sight and hearing, but he is a happy cat who gives and receives love and has added so much to my life.  I am thankful for what George has given me and for the adventures we will continue to share.

George related Links:

Thank you’s
The author would like to thank George’s guardian for answering the questions about this very handsome little guy. Photos were used with permission.