At the beginning of Tatiana Drewes Tartarotti’s junior year of college, her school granted her permission to have an emotional support animal to help her cope with bipolar disorder. In September 2015, Tatiana visited a shelter near her Virgina college after learning that the organization had a policy of euthanizing animals due to overcrowding, and a handsome one-eyed black kitten named Oliver, aka Ollie, instantly grabbed her attention.
“When I laid my eyes on Oliver, I immediately fell in love with him,” remembers Tatiana. “He was curled up in his litter box, and I could see how scared he looked. I knew that he needed all the love in the world and I wanted to comfort him right away.”
Tatiana discovered that Oliver was a 9-month-old kitten who had ended up at the shelter in early July 2015 after he was trapped with the intention of being neutered and returned to the area where he’d been living, a practice known as TNR.
However, when Oliver was trapped, the shelter staff discovered one of his eyes was severely injured and had to be surgically removed, and the organization decided not to return him to the streets as they felt he would be at a disadvantage if he were to be released. “He was having a lot of trouble being adopted not only for being a black cat and having one eye, but also due to his feral temperament,” explains Tatiana. “I was told that he had been there the longest and was close to being euthanized.”
Convinced Oliver was meant to be her emotional support animal, Tatiana brought the fluffy feline back to her dorm with her, but it took this semi-feral boy a while to settle into his new home. “He immediately ran under the bed,” says Tatiana, “and I even had to place his litter box close to him since he was scared to come out for the next three days.”
Thankfully, Tatiana refused to give up on Oliver, and with the help of lots of treat and early morning play sessions, this one-eyed cutie was exploring her dorm room by the end of the week.
While no one knows if Oliver’s eye was injured as the result of a bacterial infection or some sort of trauma, his new mom found that it took him some time to adjust to life without it. “He really struggled with depth perception and used to regularly fall while jumping on or off his cat tree,” remembers Tatiana. “Since it mostly happened at night, I got him a night light while he was adapting.” When playing with Oliver, Tatiana found he had trouble keeping track of the laser pointer, but he enjoyed wand toys as long as his mom made sure to stay within his field of vision.
Over time, Oliver’s depth perception improved, and more than two years later, this handsome one-eyed boy’s favorite place is his cat tree. However, Oliver — who was semi-feral when Tatiana adopted him — still doesn’t feel comfortable around most people, but he absolutely adores his mom. “Every morning and night he comes into bed and lays on my chest and wants to cuddle,” says Tatiana. “During the day when I’m at home, he follows me around like my shadow.”
Oliver, who came into Tatiana’s life to help her cope with the challenges of going to school while living with bipolar disorder, was by his mom’s side during her final years of college, giving her the support she needed to get her diploma. “I’m not sure I would have graduated — or at least not in four years — if it hadn’t been for him,” says Tatiana. “While studying in my room he was always either on my lap or desk, and I would explain the material to him to help me study.”
When Tatiana needed a break, she would put Oliver in his stroller and take him for long walks to clear her head; when the stress of school got to be too much, she was able to count on this adorable one-eyed feline to calm her down by rubbing his face against hers and bringing her one of his favorite toys.
“Everyone knew about him at school, and some professors even invited him to class during discussion classes, and he would lay on my lap in class during the entire period,” says Tatiana. The dean at Tatiana’s school even offered to allow Oliver to walk with her during graduation, complete with his own cat-sized cap and gown, but she declined, knowing this nervous boy would find the experience far too overwhelming.
While Tatiana is the only person Oliver feels comfortable with, over the past two and a half years, he’s shown that he enjoys the company of other animals. Not only did this handsome one-eyed cat enjoy play dates with a kitty who belonged to one of Tatiana’s friends at school, Oliver welcomed and comforted a tiny kitten his mom found near her college. “He spent the night in my dorm but was crying for a long time,” remembers Tatiana. “Ollie went over to him and started grooming him, and they slept side by side the entire night.”
Without a doubt, Oliver has been a source of love and support for his mom time and time again, but if it weren’t for Tatiana, it’s possible this handsome cat — who was close to be euthanized when he was adopted — wouldn’t be alive today. “I feel very protective over him and would run into a burning building to save him,” says Tatiana. “He makes me feel special and never alone.”
Not only has Oliver provided his mom with companionship, he’s shown her that’s it’s okay to be different. “I was proud to show his Instagram to friends and not at all ashamed of walking around the lake with him in a stroller in college,” says Tatiana.
Today, Tatiana is attending graduate school in Chicago, and she recently adopted a companion for Oliver — an adorable black and white cat named Penelope — but her bond with this handsome one-eyed boy is as strong as ever. While Tatiana has witnessed people calling Oliver ugly both in person and online, she’s convinced that he’s perfect just the way he is and she couldn’t be more honored to be his mom. “He is not only my pet but also my companion, friend, roommate and my feline son,” says Tatiana. “He has opened me up to a love I never felt before.”
To learn more about this handsome cat, you can follow Oliver on Instagram.