Adventure Cat Doesn’t Let Her Blindness Stop Her From Exploring the World
It’s pretty normal to see cats prowling around when birds or other small creatures are nearby. They’re sizing them up, inching closer, and maybe ultimately running for it. Sophie does that, too, from the safety of her leash… and without vision.
Sophie is a four-year-old rescue/adventure cat who was born with microphthalmia, which causes one or both eyeballs to be abnormally small, so small, they may appear to be gone altogether. Her human, Peter Lange, came across her adoption profile from Spartanburg Humane Society when he was volunteering his time taking pictures of adoptable pets. He wasn’t necessarily planning to get another cat, as he had recently lost his old faithful adventure buddy Tabitha and had taken up the pet photography as a distraction from his grief.
Peter says, “You betray yourself and you’re looking at adoption ads and stuff like that anyway, even if you’re telling yourself you’re not going to, and I was noticing the photography was terrible. Some were good, don’t get me wrong, but some were just like, this is a mug shot of a cat that is trying to find a home. This is not good, so I was offering my services out for free, just like, hey, let me take photos of your animals that you have for adoption. Just have better photos.
“In the process of doing that, of course, you’re looking for bad photos. And that’s when I ran across her advert. And there wasn’t even a question, it was literally just like, damn it, I’ve done it to myself now. And so I’m like, I have to arrange a meeting and see. It’s a two-part relationship. If she doesn’t like me then somebody else is better suited for her, but she just crawled into my lap and would not leave. I’m like, hmm, alright. Well, we’re doing this now.”
When he brought her home, he had two tasks: Getting his other cat Pixel, a 22-pound male, to accept his new roommate, and adjusting to having a cat that couldn’t see. Both ended up being easier than you’d think. On the first front, Pixel had decided Sophie was good people within a few hours, even walking up, licking her forehead, and sleeping next to her. The other task may have been a bit more complicated, but it was also mastered with relative ease.
Peter says, “The biggest physical adjustment that I had to do in my daily life while having a blind cat was, number one, getting over the fact that I was always constantly thinking she was a blind cat and I needed to watch out for her. She has proven that she’s more than capable of finding her own way no matter what I do, including getting out when she doesn’t need to be getting out.
“It’s quite literally just keep the furniture in the same place. Like, don’t move the couch. Don’t move the tables. Because once she knows where a surface is, she is on 100% faith that when she jumps up either onto it or down from it, that whatever she’s aiming for is still there. I learned don’t put boxes inside of where she normally would walk because she doesn’t know the box is there. She’ll find it, sometimes violently, with her face. But she’s usually really good at that.”
Living on a boat, as the three of them do in Florida, helps with the furniture. It’s all built into the hull and not going anywhere. This helped her learn the layout within about a week. As he watched her explore the boat, Peter felt like she may be his second adventure cat, after Tabitha, who was leash trained and ready to explore with her human. Pixel, on the other hand, is pretty scared of the outside, especially the sky, and has never been interested in the adventure life.
To see if Sophie may be, though, Peter ultimately got a store-bought harness to see how she would react to it. She seemed to tolerate it, so when she got a bit bigger, Sophie graduated into Tabitha’s old leash and harness, and she had her first foray into the outside world.
Peter says, “I carried her like I normally do, except this time we went out the front door instead of stopping at the front door. And then I set her down on the porch at the time and she didn’t seem to have any inclination that she was where she shouldn’t be. She was a little bit cautious because it was a new area for her. She hadn’t been out there before, but she wasn’t terrified. And so it just kind of started with that and just, you know, repetition and confidence building and always being there.”
After plenty of practice and encouragement, Sophie became a certified adventure cat, sharing her journeys on an Instagram account. When she first gets to a new place, she has a process of acclimating herself and understanding her surroundings. She stays very still and close to her human while her ears take everything in and she sorts out which noises are important and which aren’t. Then she’s on the move, establishing a perimeter. Once she has a good grasp of the place, she pulls Peter along, showing him what she wants to explore. Whenever she gets a bit of a scare, she knows where her human is, and runs back to safety beside him.
When she’s still on the prowl, though, she “hunts” just like other cats.
Peter says, “Her ears are phenomenal. There have been times where she’ll be tracking the tiniest little flying insect. We call them no-see-ums down here in Florida… She can track the wing noise with it, and that’s crazy. But when she’s out of the boat and she’s chasing after one of the little geckos or anoles or whatever, those little lizards, or the little finches she’s become very obsessed over, she will get as close as a normal cat would before they run, and she will try to chase after it. Granted, that’s where it becomes more difficult for her because now she’s trying to dive into a bush or running through tall grass that she’s never gone through before.
“So she just kind of puts, like full faith in, like, I don’t care, I’m going to smack my head into something, and just yeets herself after it until she hits something that she shouldn’t have. I’ve kind of grown to accept that as much as I want to protect her, she’s going to run face first into something occasionally…It sounds horrible, but normally she’s pretty good at using those whiskers and her other senses to not hurt herself. So I just have to have faith that she’s well within her own abilities at this point.”
Whether it’s learning her way around the boat, adventuring with her human, or keeping tabs on little critters, Sophie doesn’t much let her lack of vision get in the way. Peter says that another cat’s blindness shouldn’t give people pause about adopting them, either. The main thing is understanding how they navigate and setting up your home to ensure there aren’t any obstacles in their normal paths of travel.
So if you see a sweet little cat like Sophie, who may just have some eye difficulties, and you’re thinking of adding her to your brood, Peter encourages you to do so.
“There’s no reason not to. Just absolutely go for it.”
You can follow Sophie’s adventures on her Instagram, @sonar.sophie.
To see more of her story, check out the video below!Whizzco