“As a kitten, Frankie showed up crying outside our business one day, obviously lost,” says Beata Jezek of the Hedgehog Fibres artisan yarn company in the city of Cork, Republic of Ireland.
She’s recounting the way this blind Tortoiseshell made her way into her life when she was just three weeks old.
“There were some feral cats in the area, so it’s likely her mother is feral and lost her somehow,” she continues. “We scooped her up and got her to the vet ASAP.”
Vets discovered that Frankie was malnourished and that her eyes were in a severely distressed state.
“Her eyelids weren’t really opening at all and were just covered in gunk on the outside — which we carefully cleaned — and also on the inside, too,” recalls Beata.
The cause of Frankie’s ocular issues, according to the vet, came from contracting a strain of serious cat flu. After Frankie was prescribed with a course of medication and a paste-like remedy to mix in with her food, she returned home with Beata — even though Beata suspected the cat’s eyes might not even be there at all.
As Beata explains, a younger vet on duty was convinced Frankie did indeed have eyes below the amassed gunk — they were just being obscured by the inflamed surrounding tissue. But Beata wasn’t quite as convinced with the theory:
“Her eyelids didn’t look like they were covering much! After a week or two her cat flu had cleared up but her eyes were still the same. So we took her back in for a second opinion and the vet confirmed our suspicion that her eyes were almost totally gone and had been turned into icky goo by the cat flu.”
In the end, the vet removed “the leftover piece of the eye” that remained and “sewed the eyelid closed to avoid infection.” Frankie’s other eye was simply “left as it was.”
Once Frankie had been patched up, she set about learning to live life as a blind kitten. Beata says that because Frankie caught the cat flu so early — and before she had even opened her eyes — she’s never known sight, so when it comes to adapting to her disability she had something of a head start.
“Frankie has mapped out the house and garden very well in her head, but you can also see her using her spatial awareness heavily to navigate,” says Beata. “She can usually trot down a hallway and confidently turn into an open doorway without missing a beat or touching any walls.
“Having said that, she does misjudge her surroundings sometimes and walk into things or fall off a window ledge.”
Beata adds that one of Frankie’s favorite things to do is “listening to sounds outside.” She’ll happily hang out in the garden for hours on end, checking out a naturalistic playlist of birds trilling in the trees.
She has also become something of an expert fly hunter, and she stakes out the kitchen windowsill and the garden when looking for playful prey. Once, she successfully caught a bee only to get stung on her face, but that has not deterred Frankie from pursuing her hunting hobby.
“Another fond memory is the first time we had a storm pass overhead during the evening,” recalls Beata, summing up what life with Frankie is like. “She sat a few feet from the window, tentatively pawing at the air in front of her trying to figure out what she was hearing.
“It’s heart-meltingly cute watching her learn about the world around her without a care in the world — things could have been very different for Frankie had she not found us.”