Little is known about the very beginning of Winkie’s life, but he certainly has had some rough early years. When he was young, he was hit by a car, which broke his back, bent his nasal cavity, chipped off some of his teeth, and stole his sight. When he was brought to the vet, one of his eyes had to be removed completely. The other is still intact but is marbleized and mostly (or possibly entirely) useless. He now walks with a sort of hopping limp, has a snaggletooth, and needs nasal medication at times to help him breathe.
Sadly, Winkie’s owners never showed up to collect their pet or pay his bills, so he sat at the veterinarian’s office for years without a home or family to call his own. Occasionally, a staff member would take him home for the weekend, but he spent most of his time sitting in a cage, alone and sad, until a rescue called The Way Home found him and took him in.
When The Way Home got him, he had become diabetic from his inactive lifestyle and was barely able to walk. They nursed him back to health as they searched for a loving home for him.
Winkie did get adopted, but his early placements were short-lived. One person who took him wound up in jail, and Winkie was returned to the shelter. The second time, the new pet parents said that their other animals were bullying Winkie, so they took him back to The Way Home. It seemed no one wanted or was properly set up to take care of this poor kitty.
When Westley and Sarah Ferguson first saw Winkie at an adoption event, they weren’t really in any position to take him either. They had an older cat named Mona at home and were in the process of adopting another senior kitty, Annabelle. This didn’t seem like the right time to introduce two new cats to their home at the same time.
But when they noticed that Winkie’s profile kept going back up on The Way Home’s website, they began to get curious about whether he might be the perfect fit for their “geriatric home for cats.”
Westley and Sarah have a soft spot for older cats because of their laid-back lifestyles and their lower likelihood of being adopted. They believe all animals deserve a chance to thrive, and they care about all shelter animals who struggle to find adoptive homes because of health issues, age, personality traits, unfortunate appearances (black animals, for example, are less often adopted than other colors), and more.
“Kittens get adopted every day. Kittens are not hard to find homes for,” says Sarah. “It’s the the older cats. The ones that have things wrong with them. Their eyes are missing, or they’re missing a limb or anything like that.”
A little over a year had gone by since Annabelle’s adoption, and Sarah and Westley were ready for another addition to their family.
“We talked about it, but [Westley] surprised me for my birthday and said, ‘We’re adopting; we’re going to pick him up tomorrow on your birthday,’ and I was ecstatic for it,” Sarah recalls. “And he’s been here ever since.”
And Winkie fit in well from the very beginning. He had to have insulin shots at first for his diabetes but quickly went into remission on a proper diet. He gets along with the couple’s other cats and has learned his way around the house with relative ease, although Sarah did have to stop redecorating the house quite so much so Winkie could find his way around.
“Even with his disability, he’s no different than the other three cats that we took on,” says Sarah. “He cats well. He cats very well for a cat that can’t see other cats.”
Winkie has settled in and become “king of the cushion,” lounging on his favorite big leather cushion every chance he gets. He also loves his toys and carries them around the house and chirps whenever Westley and Sarah leave.
“It’s always funny if I’m sleeping and [Sarah] leaves and [Winkie] doesn’t really know I’m here, so then you’ll actually see him do it,” says Westley. “There have been a couple of times when I videotaped him doing that on my phone, but that’s my favorite thing that he does. I think it is hilarious.”
When Sarah’s beloved Mona passed away shortly after they adopted him, Winkie became a “mama’s boy,” helping to bring healing and fill the hole in Sarah’s heart. Even with the addition of three new cats (Anchovy, Wednesday, and Tommy) to the family, Winkie has always been Sarah’s kitty cat.
Now that Westley and Sarah are both working remotely, the whole family gets to enjoy each other’s company all day. 12-year-old Winkie’s next adventure will be to travel with his family from their current home in Florida to a new one in Tennessee, where he’ll get to experience fall and mild winters.
The Fergusons count Winkie as a blessing and hope that people can learn from his story that every pet deserves a loving home and a chance at a good life, no matter what they look like, how old they are, or any other difference.
“If you see a cat with a disability, I don’t think it’s like something that should be overlooked,” says Westley. “Most likely, you’ll bring them home and they won’t be any different than any other cat. If anything, I think a cat with a disability should be looked at even more because they get overlooked so much.”