Following a trip to the post office in May 2018, Heather and her mother were walking back to their home in Glenns Ferry, Idaho, when a tabby kitten suddenly appeared before them. “A tiny kitty stumbled out onto the road in front of us,” remembers Heather. “My mom picked her up and then almost dropped her when she saw her face. Her eyes were extremely swollen and glued shut.”
After taking one look at the kitten, Heather and her mother knew there was no way they could leave her where they’d found her, sick and alone in the nearly 100 degree heat, so they took her to a nearby vet for a thorough examination.
“She had a severe eye infection and was extremely dehydrated and malnourished,” explains Heather, and the doctor determined the kitten was approximately four weeks old and far too young to be on her own. “She had lost her meow, probably due to being separated from her mother and crying for her. Heartbreaking.”
While no one knows what the little kitten’s life had been like before Heather and her mother found her on the street that day, it’s possible her mother abandoned her after she developed an infection or her former owners decided they didn’t want the responsibility of caring for a sick cat. “She seemed to be familiar with humans, which makes us think she may have belonged to someone at first,” says Heather. “I don’t think she had it easy before we found her.”
Following the visit to the vet’s office, Heather and her family decided to take the kitten home with them, intending to find a family for her after they nursed her back to health. Almost immediately, Heather noticed the kitten relied on her sense of hearing to make up for her lack of vision, so they decided to name her Echo. “While not an exact definition of echolocation, Echo’s ears are always going a mile a minute,” explains Heather. “Her constantly moving ears reminded us of bat ears.”
Due to the condition of Echo’s infected eyes — which were swollen and sealed shut with discharge — the vet was unable to determine if the little kitten would ever be able to see again. “We did our best to clean them and got some ophthalmic ointment to start right away,” remembers Heather. “All we could do was wait until the vet could get a good look at the eyes.” Eventually, the doctor was finally able to examine Echo’s eyes, but he still wasn’t sure if they were salvageable.
“After a few more weeks, one of her eyes started swelling badly, so we took her back in and the vet made the call that they needed to come out,” says Heather. At the time, Heather and family knew very little about caring for a cat with special needs, and they actually contemplated whether it would be in Echo’s best interest for them to put her to sleep. “Our biggest concern was her quality of life,” says Heather.
Thankfully, Heather decided to research blind cats, and she quickly discovered that they are capable of living happy and active lives, something Echo — who had very limited vision — was already demonstrating to her family. “She had started showing her little personality and it became clear that she had a zest for life and that she was happy,” remembers Heather. “We don’t think she could see very well anyways, so we hoped it wouldn’t be a shock to be completely blind. We were also becoming quite attached to her.”
Heather and her family were also concerned about the cost of the double enucleation, the surgery to remove both of Echo’s eyes, as they’d recently had some unexpected bills related to their other pets. “We spoke to the vet about our financial constraints, and he said he would make sure the bill stayed under $200,” explains Heather.
She also shared Echo’s story with her friends on Facebook, and several people offered to help Heather and her family cover the cost of the operation. “I made a fundraising page and with the help of some amazing donors, we reached enough to go ahead with the surgery in a week,” says Heather.
In preparation for the eye removal surgery, Heather and her family discussed ways they could help Echo adjust to her new life without eyes, but this spunky little kitten quickly proved to them that she was perfectly capable of getting around on her own.
“She pulled through the surgery beautifully, and when we took her home, she hit the ground running and hasn’t stopped since,” says Heather. “We brought her inside and set her down and she immediately started racing around and playing.”
It’s been several weeks since Echo’s surgery, and this adorable blind kitten is doing great, especially because she now has a forever home with Heather and her family. “As time went on we knew we belonged to her,” says Heather. “We had no idea how much we missed her before she came into our lives.”
Prior to the surgery, Heather was worried that Echo’s blindness might cause her to be fearful or anxious, too afraid to play or explore like a typical young cat. Fortunately, that certainly hasn’t been the case for this special little kitten, and if anything, Echo can be a bit too fearless for her mom’s liking.
“One of the biggest challenges we face is actually her boldness and desire to explore,” explains Heather. “She has some common sense, but nothing slows her down for very long.”
Echo enjoys supervised time outside, and she’s a surprisingly good hunter despite being completely blind. “She races around the yard, making flying leaps at flies and grasshoppers,” says Heather. “And she catches them sometimes too!”
Being an incredibly active young cat, Echo loves chasing after her canine and feline siblings, but she also adores running away from Heather when she tries to catch her. “She waits until I get close and then springs into action, executing giant leaps and spins and peel-outs, evading my grasp,” says Heather.
Because Echo relies on her hearing more than a typical cat, she is particularly fond of playing with noisy objects like packing paper and bubble wrap. “She get into the shipping material and helps herself — pulling it out and packing it off to her desired play locale,” explains Heather.
While Echo has only lived with Heather and her family for a few months, she’s had a huge impact on their lives during this relatively short time. “Echo means the world to me and my family,” says Heather. “My father even likes her and he is always complaining about the animals we bring home.”
Not only is Echo a happy and active young kitten who gives them hours of entertainment with her antics, this adorable girl is an inspiration to everyone she knows, especially her family. “She shows me what real selflessness is like. Not for one second has she shown any self-pity,” says Heather. “She accepts her life and lives it how she wants. She marches through life like she owns it.”
Even though Echo bumps into walls from time to time, she takes these minor setbacks in stride, refusing to let anything get in her way. By sharing Echo’s story, Heather — who knew very little about special needs cats before meeting this adorable kitten — hopes other people will consider opening their homes to animals who are often deemed less adoptable.
“They don’t think about what they lost or what they can’t do; they live in the moment. It’s an incredibly humbling experience,” says Heather. “Just that daily reminder that something you think may be the end of the world really isn’t. That sometimes things happen that change your life, but that doesn’t mean your life is over, it just means it’s going to be different — and that’s okay.”
When Heather and her mother discovered Echo — alone and injured on a sweltering hot day in May — she was far from okay, malnourished, dehydrated, and with severely infected eyes. Thankfully, instead of ignoring Echo, Heather and her mother plucked her up off of the street and got her the help she so desperately needed.
While they most certainly weren’t looking for another pet when they encountered this very special cat several weeks ago, Heather and her family are so grateful Echo chose them to take care of her. “We were missing her in our lives before she came and we didn’t even know it. Now we can’t imagine life without her,” says Heather. “She is so full of life and she is feisty and sassy; she impresses us every day. I feel so lucky to be the one who gets to watch her grow up.”
To learn more about this adorable kitten, you can follow Echo on Instagram.