Jen Koscheka was working at a wild animal sanctuary in Denver, Colorado, in May 2018, when she and her colleagues discovered three tiny kittens living in a bear den. “Due to all of the ‘free meat’ in the area, we would get a lot of feral cats,” explains Jen. “We would trap the adults, get them spayed and neutered, then re-home them — if they could be socialized — or release them in the thousands of acres of the sanctuary.”
She and her coworkers would also humanely trap nursing mother cats and their kittens and foster them until they were adopted. Consequently, Jen and her colleagues at the animal sanctuary weren’t all that surprised to find the litter of kittens living in the bear den, although they were all wondering about what had happened to their mom. “We monitored them for over a day and never saw their mother,” remembers Jen.
Jen and her coworkers determined the kittens had probably been abandoned by their mom, and knowing they were unlikely to survive much longer on their own, they rescued the young felines. An examination revealed the kittens were approximately two weeks old, and one of them was diagnosed with microphthalmia in his left eye, a congenital condition that causes affected animals and people to have unusually small eyes with anatomic abnormalities, and anterior segment dysgenesis with adherent leukoma in his right eye. “This is where the front area of the eye does not form properly or is deformed,” explains Jen, “and the leukoma is a growth of excess cells.”
Jen was immediately smitten with the adorable blind kitten, so she and her partner Justin decided to adopt him, naming him Ollie. “One look into his super cloudy eye was all it took for me to fall head over heels in love!” remembers Jen. “From the start, there was something so extra special about Ollie!”
In addition to being extremely cuddly with his parents, Ollie enjoyed sitting on their shoulders, and he would even try to stick his head into their mouths! He would also frequently rub himself against Jen and Justin, which she believes was his way of marking them with his scent so he could easily find them again. “He was a little ‘Velcro’ kitten,” says Jen.
While they weren’t prepared to adopt Ollie’s litter mates, the couple took on the responsibility of fostering his siblings, which included bottle feeding all three cats every few hours until they were eventually able to eat on their own. At approximately eight weeks old, the kittens were ready to be sterilized when the vet determined Ollie was born with an undescended testicle, a condition known as cryptorchidism. “He had to have a full surgery to open him up to try to find it,” says Jen. “[Undescended testicles] can turn cancerous if left inside the body.”
Thankfully, Ollie and his siblings quickly recovered from their surgeries, and his brother and sister found forever homes with the help of a local rescue. Nearly four years after he and his siblings were rescued from a bear den, Ollie is doing incredibly well! “He is still my ‘Velcro’ kitty, always on my lap or stomach,” says Jenn, “but he is just nearing 16 pounds and no longer fits on my shoulder!”
In addition to snuggling with his parents, Ollie is very playful, and contrary to what people might assume, this handsome blind feline rarely has trouble getting around. “When not cuddling, he loves to play in one of his tube tunnels, carry around toys — often bringing them to the water dish — or chasing his little sister, his favorite playmate, throughout the house!” says Jenn.
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In fact, Ollie is known to run full speed after his sister, and he never hesitates to race up the cat tree to try to catch her. However, Ollie — who Jenn believes is able to see some light and shapes — is terrible at sneaking up on the other cats who share his home. “He is often in the center of the room, doing butt wiggles, getting ready to pounce on a sibling who is just staring at him the whole time!” explains Jenn. “They seem to actually pretend to be scared though, I think for his sake!”
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Ollie also enjoys spending supervised time outside, taking in all of the new smells and sounds, but one of his favorite activities is simply walking around the inside of the house, marking it with his scent to help him find his way around. While he rarely has difficulty navigating his environment, Ollie does lose his way from time to time. “Sometimes, he does get ‘lost’ in the back of the house — especially when it’s late at night and dark,” says Jen, “so he will start the sweetest little ‘yells’ until we come running to show him back to the main room and onto our laps!”
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Otherwise, Ollie is a pretty typical cat, and Jenn hopes sharing his story will convince other people to consider adopting felines with special needs. While their vet bills might be a bit higher, Jenn believes special needs cats are just as loving as average kitties, maybe even more so. “I think anyone with a rescued, special needs pet will tell you, what they lack in eyesight or limbs or hearing, they make up for in an even bigger heart!” explains Jenn. “They truly seem to know you saved their lives and are all the more bonded to you for it!”
Without a doubt Ollie — who was rescued from a bear den and now sleeps on a bed between his mom and dad every night — absolutely adores his parents, and for Jen, who has been in animal welfare for more than a decade, the feeling is definitely mutual. “I don’t have favorites, but I cannot describe how he has just burrowed a tiny bit deeper into my heart!” says Jenn. “He is just pure love. He epitomizes caring, pureness, light, joy, and love! Ollie truly is my ‘soul cat.’ “
To learn more about this handsome cat, you can follow Ollie on Instagram.