If you’re out and about in Venice Beach, California, you might spot a cat strutting around wearing a pair of bedazzled sunglasses. That’s Bagel — or Sunglass Cat, as she has become known around the world.
She sports her signature sunglasses to help deal with the fact that she was born without eyelids. This is her story.
When she was two months old, Bagel was adopted from the Carson Animal Shelter in Los Angeles by Karen, her human savior. “She came to the front of the cage putting her paw out looking up at me with her very crossed eyes,” recalls Karen. “It was love at first sight.”
With Bagel weighing barely three-quarters of a pound at the time, Karen took the kitten to her workplace in order to spoon-feed her baby food and administer Pedialyte out of a syringe every half an hour. “With every little ounce she gained, I was ecstatic,” she recalls.
Once Bagel had gotten herself up to strength, her eye situation was addressed. Being born without eyelids means that she cannot produce tears. She underwent three operations, but as they weren’t a total success, to this day Karen has to pluck out Bagel’s eyelashes every week.
“Since she cannot develop tears, I have to put artificial tears in her eyes on a daily basis,” she adds.
It also turned out Bagel had another ailment — she has difficulties regulating her body temperature. “I discovered when she was a baby that she was getting cold even when it was 70 degrees outside and we were at the beach in the sun,” explains Karen. “I went and bought her a sweatshirt, and the next day when we went to the beach and she was shivering again, I put the sweatshirt on her and her shivering stopped.”
Bagel also doesn’t do well in hot temperatures; Karen says that whenever the weather tops 73 degrees she has to submerge Bagel in water or ice so that she doesn’t overheat. “There’s been a few times that she just lies on my frozen bags of fruit to cool off,” she says.
As Bagel has managed her physical difficulties, she has also become attuned to the needs of other people with special needs, especially when she’s traveling around with Karen. “The only time Bagel’s jumped off of my hand was to go curl up onto this little girl’s chest who had a severe case of cerebral palsy,” she says. “Her dad had already stopped me to talk, and his daughter just lit up when she saw Bagel. Then she went right up to her chest and curled up.”
Karen says she was initially mortified because Bagel doesn’t usually behave like that. “I was about to apologize as well as take her off of the girl when I saw the dad crying,” she says. “He told me that he hadn’t seen his daughter look that happy in so long. We stayed for over an hour talking, and Bagel just laid there on her chest looking at her.”
Similar scenes have happened many times. “There have been quite a few instances where Bagel has gone to a child or an adult like she knows they’re special as well,” Karen says.
Of course, with Bagel’s distinctive eyewear, she’s easy to spot when on her adventures. “I love the kids’ reaction and watching their excitement when they realize it’s a cat that’s out,” says Karen. “I’m constantly stopped by people to talk to me about her sunglasses.”
Talking is a big part of their outings. “I feel it’s important to talk to each and every person who stops me to talk about Bagel,” she adds. “I like to inform them as we’re talking about the importance of adopting special needs animals, spay and neutering, not to declaw their cats, and how so many rescues need volunteers.”
And if Bagel could give her own message to the world?
“Too many people are quick to write off us animals who are born with a disability or have suffered a great physical trauma in an accident,” Karen says for Bagel, “but everyone should know that us cats are just as worthy of care and attention as any others.”
“Bagel would want you to know there’s something magical about special needs cats,” Karen says.
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