When Meagan Matthews and her family were considering adopting a special-needs cat by the glorious name of Hank Von Hankenstein, they quickly realized that they’d need to embrace a new approach to the world around them.
“We had to learn to think like a deaf and blind cat,” she says, talking about the way they set about readying their house for Hank’s arrival. The approach to preparedness has paid off, as the five-year-old Hank is now proud to boast that he’s “living life to its fullest” and “inspiring us all to do the same.”
Hank showed up on Meagan’s radar when she was searching for a feline buddy for her cat Logan, who’s own BFF had recently passed away. Blind and deaf (and polydactyl), Hank was one of nearly 30 cats who were profiled on the New Jersey-based Liberty Humane Society‘s Facebook page after being rescued from a hoarder.
“He was very sick when he got to the shelter,” explains Meagan, “but his foster family nursed him back to health. After that, I couldn’t stop thinking about him and emailed Liberty Humane Society to set up an appointment to meet him at his foster family’s home.”
Admitting that she feared a deaf and blind feline like Hank could become “very closed off and shy” when meeting new folks, Meagan was pleasantly surprised at the way Hank reacted during their introduction.
“He was curious and friendly upon meeting me,” she recalls.
Meagan adds that she was wise enough to bring the failsafe combination of toys and treats to help win Hank over. The tactic worked: “While his foster mom and I talked, Hank had lots of fun playing and inspecting them. I knew right away that he belonged with my family.”
Hank’s addition to Meagan’s family was initially motivated by Logan’s need for some companionship, but unfortunately Logan became sick with severe pancreatitis barely a month after Hank joined the household.
“Although his vets tried their best, we had to say goodbye to our boy,” she says.
Faced with a new family grieving over the loss of their former cat, Hank appeared to step up and take a central role in his new forever home. Meagan says he quickly revealed himself to be a “sweet and goofy boy” who always seeks a human touch.
“I think the hardest part of being deaf and blind for Hank is not always knowing when we are home,” she explains. “He has a couple of checkpoints where he will wait to see if anyone greets him. He is extremely routine oriented, and any change throws him for a loop so we try very hard to keep it consistent. At first, we learned to alert him by tapping the floor so he knew we were home in order to not startle him.”
Meagan adds that by now Hank’s sense of smell is extremely well developed and that he’ll “touch his nose to our feet when we come home” in a bid to sniff out who’s who.
As for the ability to “learn to think like a deaf and blind cat,” Meagan says the furniture in her house has been moved to make it easier for Hank to navigate. She says it’s also of the utmost importance to keep the layout and floor spaces consistent: “You can’t be lazy and leave your bag or shoes on the floor because Hank will trip over them.”
Then, with a laugh, she adds, “You also have to make sure you close the toilet lid!”