Just like humans, cats have special talents. My cat Phoenix, for example, can speak at least three feline languages, and Bubba Lee Kinsey is an expert burrito thief. (I learned this the hard way.) For a Siamese cat named Mr. Magoo, that special talent was art. He’d dip his paws in paint and walk in circles on the canvas, creating his signature pattern. You might even say he was a bit of a savant. And here’s the real kicker: Mr. Magoo was blind.
Before he became the next Paw-casso, Mr. Magoo had a rough start. He came to Valley Animal Center, a nonprofit, no-kill shelter in Fresno, California, as an owner surrender. The circumstances surrounding his arrival were dire, primarily because Mr. Magoo had an untreated upper-respiratory infection, which eventually led to his blindness — and his story just got worse from there.
“His former owner was not able to provide him with proper vet care and was afraid he would hurt himself wandering around without sight, so he kept him tied up to a porch,” says Shannon Escobedo, Valley Animal Center volunteer manager. “This had detrimental side effects because he could only go around in a circle at the end of his tether. Now, whenever he feels a heightened emotion, he spins around in a circle because of the trauma from being tied up.”
Fortunately, Valley Animal Center has lots of experience helping cats in need. The shelter opened in 1992 in response to the high euthanasia rate in California’s Central Valley. Today they operate cat and dog shelters; a low-cost spay, neuter, vaccination, and wellness clinic; and a membership-based dog park. They also helped Mr. Magoo get back on his feet. Turns out all he needed was a comfortable bed and a little love.
“He had a lot of admirers among our staff and volunteers, who would come to visit him daily,” Escobedo says. “He was usually found sleeping on one of the shelves and gradually reduced the amount of time that he spent spinning. I think what was most surprising is how well he could get around without sight. He jumped from shelf to shelf above his height, and though he couldn’t see the shelves and they were too high for him to touch, he sensed that they were there.”
The spinning didn’t stop entirely, however — but his unusual method of self-soothing did help Mr. Magoo become one of the shelter’s most notable artists. Several Valley Animal Center residents regularly “paint” pictures to help raise funds and awareness for special-needs pets, including Zeus the Great Dane, Sparrow the one-eyed Chihuahua, a declawed cat with irritable bowel syndrome named Van Gogh, and a cat with calicivirus named Mila.
Mr. Magoo fit right in with this ragtag bunch — but none could re-create the distinct circular patterns so often seen in his paintings. Check out this video of Mr. Magoo creating his art.
The other pets also couldn’t match Mr. Magoo’s enthusiasm. According to Escobedo, he took naturally to painting, seeming to enjoy the way the nontoxic substance felt on his paws.
“With the other animals we worked with, we had to hold them and press their paws on the canvas for the paintings, but we were very surprised that Mr. Magoo walked right through the paint and started spinning on the canvas,” Escobedo says. “When he stopped spinning and tilted his head, he was done with that picture.”
Unfortunately, Mr. Magoo developed kidney disease about a year ago. To ensure he received the care and attention he needed, he went to live with a foster family — but last week he stopped responding to treatment and had to be euthanized. Everyone at the shelter was heartbroken over his passing.
“He has been such a special part of all our lives for so long and has touched so many people along his journey,” Escobedo says. “I hope that our boy will be healed and made whole again as he crosses that Rainbow Bridge.”
Mr. Magoo may have created his last masterpiece, but his legacy lives on in two kittens who recently arrived at Valley Animal Center.
“We recently had a litter of kittens brought into our shelter, and two of the kittens were born without eyes,” Escobedo says. “We named the two brothers Ray and Charles and have recently begun teaching them how to paint so they can continue in Mr. Magoo’s footsteps.”
Do you know of a rescue hero — cat, human, or group — we should profile on Catster? Write us at email@example.com.
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About Angela: This not-crazy-at-all cat lady loves to lint-roll her favorite dress and go out dancing. She also frequents the gym, the vegan coffee joint, and the warm patch of sunlight on the living room floor. She enjoys a good cat rescue story about kindness and decency overcoming the odds, and she’s an enthusiastic recipient of headbutts and purrs from her two cats, Bubba Lee Kinsey and Phoenix.