When Juliana saw an Instagram post about the animals who were available for adoption through Cat Welfare Society, an advocacy group for community cats in Singapore, one of the felines — a cute ginger and white kitten named Benz — immediately grabbed her attention.
“I was already on the lookout to adopt a cat and thought Benz was too adorable,” remembers Juliana, so in March 2017, she contacted the organization to learn more the young cat with the unique face.
“It was then that the rescuer told me that Benz has this congenital condition, eyelid agenesis,” explains Juliana, “whereby his upper lateral eyelid is not formed.” Juliana also learned that while Benz was born without upper eyelids, he didn’t have any vision problems, although he needed some additional care as a result of the condition.
“His eyes just get irritated more easily from dust, hair, and eyelashes due to the lack of protective barrier,” says Juliana, so cats with eyelid agenesis need people who are willing — at minimum — to clean their eyes on a regular basis.
Initially, Juliana was concerned about adopting a cat with special needs, uncertain if she would be able to give Benz the care and attention he required, but ultimately, she decided to take this handsome ginger and white boy home for a month-long trial period. “I thought since I had already ‘chosen’ him when I saw the Instagram post,” says Juliana, “to not want to adopt him upon knowing he has a condition would make me no different from the people who do not give special needs cat a chance.”
Their first meeting took place in Juliana’s home when Benz’s foster mom brought him to her house to begin the one-month trial. “He was really timid and scared of strangers and the new environment,” says Juliana, “and he was meowing and clinging onto the fosterer, refusing to let go of her.”
Prior to being rescued when he was seven months old, Benz and his brother had been living on the streets, so he was understandably wary of new people. Thankfully, Juliana and her husband refused to give up on him, even though Benz didn’t eat for the first two days in their home and spent the initial week hiding in a cat tree.
Eventually, Benz began to feel more at ease with Juliana and her husband, and after a month with the couple, he finally felt secure and brave enough to begin exploring their home. “Though it took a while, my husband and I were really happy to see him slowly progressing and trusting us,” remembers Juliana.
At the end of the trial period, the couple had fallen in love with Benz, so they decided to permanently adopt him. While Juliana hadn’t gone looking for a special needs cat, Benz’s eyelid agenesis did factor into her decision to adopt him because she knew he would most likely have a harder time finding a home than a typical feline.
Eyelid agenesis appears to be fairly rare in Singapore because when Juliana took Benz to the vet for the first time, she had to explain his condition to the doctor. Currently, this adorable orange and white cat seems to be in good health, so Juliana hasn’t pursued any possible treatments, like cryoepilation or tissue grafting. “At the moment, we are just letting him be and cleaning his eyes while monitoring his condition,” says Juliana, a practice Benz doesn’t particularly enjoy. “He runs away whenever he hears me taking out the cotton pad.”
Thankfully, these cleaning sessions take up just a small part of the day, leaving Benz plenty of time to enjoy his favorite activities, such as sleeping on his parents’ bed, playing with his toy lizard, watching television, following around his older brother Jay, and of course, eating. “Interestingly, he loves bread,” says Juliana. “He also loves getting loads of affection from us and purrs and marches whenever he feels loved.”
There’s no shortage of affection for Benz in Juliana’s home, and this sweet, funny, and active boy has shown his parents just how rewarding it can be to adopt an animal with special needs. “[Special needs cats] are absolutely wonderful and truly deserve a loving home like any other cats,” says Juliana. “Even with their condition — be it eyelid agenesis or any other condition — it does not make them less loving and affectionate.”
Fortunately, Benz — who was rescued from the streets as a kitten — found the perfect home with Juliana and her husband, a couple that was more than willing to give him all the time he needed to feel comfortable and at ease. Now, more than a year after he was adopted, this adorable special needs boy has come out of his shell, and Benz, who once spent a week hiding in a cat tree, is entertaining his parents with his antics. “He’s one silly goofball and we love him to bits,” says Juliana. “He’s part of our family.”
To learn more about this adorable cat, you can follow Benz on Instagram.