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Bruiser is a large tabby and white male cat who came to us in 1995. He had been part of a feral cat colony located behind a popular Orlando restaurant. We had worked with the caretaker to trap, fix and release the members of the colony. Once a cat has been vet checked, we make a decision as to whether it should be returned to its previous environment. This decision is partly based upon the cat's overall health, adoptability, a good food supply and a safe location. In Bruiser's case, although he was in pretty good shape, we discovered that he had toxoplasmosis which is a parasitic disease.
Toxo is quite easily managed with a course of antibiotics, however, if it isn't treated fairly quickly after the onset of the disease, it can lead to secondary health problems including glaucoma and blindness. As Bruiser had lived outside for all of his young life, the toxo had probably gone undiagnosed for a long time. He had unusually large protruding eyes so our veterinarian immediately suspected that he had glaucoma. Unfortunately, his suspicions were correct! Therefore, it was obvious that two of the conditions requisite for returning him to the colony - health and safety - could not be met. Bruiser remained here with us.
Unfortunately, despite our efforts, we could not halt the progression of the glaucoma. Bruiser gradually lost his eyesight over the years. Since the summer of 2000 he has been totally blind. He has to have regular check-ups with an eye specialist in Orlando. He also requires three different types of medication twice daily which cost about $100.00 per month. They help relieve the pressure on his eyes and without them he would be in a great deal of pain.
Although Bruiser is now blind, it doesn't seem to have slowed him down at all! It's truly amazing to see how well he's adapted. We try to move furniture around as little as possible so as not to confuse him. He knows where all the litter boxes are located and he never has accidents. He also goes in and out of a cat door into an enclosed backyard and makes his way around without any problem!
For example, one morning I asked my husband not to open the cat door until I had medicated Bruiser's eyes. I knew that once he was outside I wouldn't be able to catch him. However, Bruiser, (ever wily), managed to slip by him. Later that day, my husband spotted him sleeping under a bush. "How hard can this be?" he thought, "He's blind!" Slowly he crept up on Bruiser, intending to scoop him up and bring him back inside. Suddenly, Bruiser cocked his head to one side, jumped up and took off running across the yard with an uncanny sense of direction. My husband was astounded! "How on earth can he do that?" he exclaimed, "He can't see where's he going!" Well, obviously he can, Dear!" I replied.
Bruiser is actually able to identify where we are and find us unerringly. He reacts with a heightened sense of sound, smell and movement which enables him to follow us closely! It really is uncanny. Due to his unfaltering sense of direction, it would be very difficult to the casual observer to guess that he was blind. Thankfully his disability hasn't dampened his enthusiasm for life. In his darkness, his sunny disposition and innate curiosity about everything brings light into our lives, hopefully, for many years to come!