Adventuring with blind cats

6/07/2020

Jokin aika sitten minua kysyttiin kirjoittamaan vierailijapostaus Kiran ja Kahlilin kanssa ulkoilusta Dali the adventure cat-sivustolle, johon mieluusti suostuinkin. Koska sekä sivusto, että tänään julkaistu kirjoitukseni siellä ovat suomeksi, julkaisen tuon samaisen tekstin käännöksen suomea taitamattomille seuraajillemme täällä. / A while back I was asked to write a guest blog post about adventuring with Kira and Kahlil for @dalitheadventurecat's new site on cat activities which I gladly did. The blog and my post there which came out today are in Finnish, so I've translated it for all non-Finnish speakers here:

Kira and Kahlil are two adventure cats from Kerava, born blind on the streets of Cyprus, a country of 1.2 million people and 1.5 million homeless cats. Different kinds of diseases spread around in feral cat populations from one cat to another and issues with eyesight are a common problem among both adult cats and their offspring. Kira's mother has likely been sick with herpes or something similar which can result in kittens born without eyesight. Kahlil was born with bilateral microphthalmia, a congenital or developmental eye anomaly characterized by small eyes, likely due to a virus infection during fetal development. To Finland I adopted both privately and flew them home myself. Kira in October 2018 and Kahlil in August 2019, so the first is now two years old and the latter one.
          

Out of my six cats Kira and Kahlil are the only ones who go adventuring outdoors while the 11-18-year-old senior folk prefers our catio. Them being raised as adventure cats is all thanks to Midir, a former independently outdoor cat who I adopted when he was 8 years old and with whom I adventured together for the last 13 years of his life. So when three years after his passing I was searching for a special needs kitten that would have a hard time finding a home elsewhere I knew I wanted to explore the outdoors with them starting at a young age. And when that special need turned out to be blindness of all things I was even more certain of my decision, because a blind cat can't entertain him or herself by watching birds out the window for example. A blind cat experiences their surroundings by touch, sound, scent and taste, by being present themselves. It was clear to me from the beginning that if this cat would want it, she would get to feel the moss of a forest, the sand of a beach and grass of a meadow underneath her paws, the wind in her hair and the rain and sunshine on her face, hear the birds, squirrels and bumblebees around her, smell the animals that have walked her path before her and taste the grass where it grows.

                          

From +33°C in Cyprus Kira arrived to +5°C and a fast approaching winter in Finland so we started going outside with her as soon as possible. After a week with us Kira spent her first 15 minutes at the side of a forest, mostly just sitting on my lap listening to her new surroundings and that is where we got started. For a long time Kira's favourite place was our closest lakeside where she got to run on sand with no obstacles in her way, but when the fearless kitten phase was over she started to fear the sound of strangers to a degree that forced us to move our adventures to locations where we would get to be by ourselves. When Kahlil arrived the weather was warmer and his first winter somewhat nonexistent so we managed to adventure through it with almost no interruptions. If it was raining we were exploring pet stores or the hallways of flower shops, but like her big sister Kahlil started to hesitate when hearing strangers around the time of his first birthday.

                          

Sound is probably the biggest difference compared to being outdoors with a sighted cat. When considering a new place to go to one has to think of the sounds of that environment beforehand and also learn to tolerate their own voice. Since neither of these try to escape even when spooked both Kira and Kahlil venture out without a leash almost without exception, following the sound of my steps and voice, so when we're out I make sure they can hear me in one or more ways at all times. Easier this is when there's another person to bring along so I can talk to them instead and have another pair of eyes to observe our surroundings in case of something unexpected. Other differences are a part of the personality of each cat and partly about Kira mapping and remembering familiar places whereas Kahlil will go towards things that interest him without caution instead. So Kahlil loves trees, water and unobstructed places like beaches. Kira thickets, overgrown forests and especially the backyard of our apartment complex in the middle of summer nights.

At home their blindness means keeping all surfaces free of clutter, furniture in their places and open doors only slightly ajar, never completely open so that the map these two have in their heads would match with their surroundings. In a familiar, unchanging place you can't even tell that they're blind. Unless Kahlil is in a hurry to get to his food. Then some door frames might almost be bumped even.

                          

So far we've been adventuring only in the forests and lakesides close to home, but we do have plans of taking our diy camper van out on the road with the cats and heading out to locations further away, like Lapland, when it's acceptable to do so again. Camping we plan on trying out as soon as this summer and if their skittishness with strange people eases in the future I'd love to travel abroad with them one day as well. Both their past and future adventures you can find on Instagram under @melenekira!

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