We have a blind cat. She’s just out of the terrorism of kitten-hood, fifteen months old. When my daughter called me from Chico last fall and said, “I’m thinking of adopting a blind kitty,” I said, “No, don’t do it!” Those of you who know Kendall will not be surprised to hear that when she came home at Thanksgiving, it was with the blind kitten.
Her name is Maya-Roo. The Roo was my contribution, because she leaps into the air like a kangaroo anytime someone walks past her, launching herself into the unknown. I think it’s a self-protective thing; she doesn’t have a clue what might be approaching.
When the dog comes close, she springs into the air and comes down on the dog’s shoulders or back. The dog is always game, and soon there’s a tussle, a back and forth between them of paw bats and guttural sounds and pouncing that at first made me fear for the cat, since the dog outweighs her by at least forty-five pounds. Over time, they have become fast friends and playmates, and an endless source of laughter in the house.
I have watched Maya-Roo a lot these past months. Adjusting to the house, figuring out where things are, and boldly trusting that objects will stay where she remembers they are. It doesn’t always work. Sometimes a chair will be moved, or she’ll misjudge the distance to the arm of the couch and launch herself into the air, only to fall short or hit another piece of furniture. Sometimes she runs headlong into a doorway or a wall. Then she sits for a minute, almost as if she’s shaking it off, and then she’s off and running at full speed in the other direction.
She is teaching me much about trust. She wants to be outdoors in the worst way, and our yard isn’t fenced. So several times whoever is supposedly watching her (Kendall and I have both been guilty of this) has forgotten long enough for her to wander away from the house and out into the parking lot, or worse, down the driveway toward the street. Then there’s a panicked frenzy between us, frantically searching, calling her name and hoping she hasn’t gotten into the road. We’ve found her as far as a block from here, always appearing out of nowhere, it seems, as we're racing around the neighborhood. She comes to us willingly, as if to say, “Hey, I’m right here! Where have you been?”
It’s hard to fathom what it would be like to go through life without the gift of vision. Her other senses are acute. Her hearing is extraordinary. I have watched her in the garden detect a bug flying past, jump at it and almost catch it. Her sense of smell is impeccable, as well, and she uses it to find her way about the house and yard, sniffing the air and following her nose.
Again I think, How would my life be if I couldn’t see? It is hard enough to trust that a certain chair will be where you left it when you are sighted. What if you couldn’t depend on that? What if you couldn’t depend on anything being the way you remember it? What if everything you knew was subject to change? I sometimes watch Maya-Roo race through the house. She is still so kitten-like, and will suddenly bounce up and run through the room, leaping into the air where she thinks the couch should be, where the bookshelf was yesterday, where the dog seems to be given the jingle of her collar. She just assumes it will be where it was the last time. And if it isn’t, that doesn’t seem to faze her. She doesn’t become cautious. It doesn't keep her from blasting into space once again, trusting that the couch pillows will be there to grab with her claws, or the books on the shelf will still be a wall she can leap over and hide behind.
She has never been fearful. And that makes me wonder if she is fearless by nature. Are other blind cats and dogs naturally cautious? Since she was blind at birth, does that make it “easier” for her in the sense that she’s doesn’t know what she’s missing?
I try to emulate her sense of adventure and belief in what exists. I try to trust that life will always be something new, and that sometimes what I expect will shift and change, and I will have to adjust. It’s a powerful lesson from a small creature that delights in the world around her. She’s not missing a thing.