When Nadine Leichtenstern decided she needed to find a companion for Giuliano, her ginger cat who had recently recovered from paralysis and a broken jaw and fractured hind leg, she and her grandmother chose to adopt a special cat from a rescue in Spain. “My granny and I were looking for a perfect friend for him and we fell in love with one-eyed Donovan,” remembers Nadine. “He’d been waiting for a home for almost a year.”
Donovan, who was born in September 2015, was taken to the rescue when he was just a few months old after he was discovered on the brink of death in a dilapidated house in Spain. “When Donovan was a kitten, he became ill,” explains Nadine. “His eyes were completely clotted from the infection caused by cat flu and he couldn’t see a thing.”
Fortunately, a couple found the sick kitten and took him to a rescue that got him the medical treatment he desperately needed. “The vets found some wounds and bruises that could have come from abuse,” says Nadine, and staff at the animal hospital concluded that the friendly kitten had most likely been dumped on the streets by his former family when he became ill.
Fortunately, Donovan got the medical care he needed to save his life, although he had to have one of his eyes surgically removed because the infection had gone untreated for far too long. Following the operation, the adorable one-eyed cat remained at the rescue for more than a year until Nadine and grandmother saw him online and knew Donovan would be the ideal companion for Giuliano. On December 3, 2016, staff from the animal rescue traveled from Spain to Bavaria, Germany, to deliver Donovan to his new home with Nadine, a day she will never forget.
“I had prepared a room for him, and after signing the contract, I immediately went to his room,” remembers Nadine. “First I thought he was shy, but when I reached my finger towards him, he immediately started to purr and rub his head against it. I lured him out with treats and he investigated everything, absolutely happy and not shy. He couldn’t decide if he should play, investigate, or snuggle, so he did all three at once.”
Nadine fell in love with Donovan right away, but she knew that it might be a bit difficult for Giuliano to warm up to his new friend. The following day, Nadine introduced the two cats to one another, and initially, Giuliano wasn’t sure what to think of the one-eyed feline, but by the third day, the two were buddies.
“Donovan was so sweet and nice that they played together on the third day,” says Nadine. “That’s also when Donovan met my two bigger but very calm and obedient dogs. It actually brought tears to my eyes as he wasn’t afraid of them
While it didn’t take long for Donovan to settle into his new home, Nadine noticed that he bumped into walls and the dogs from time to time and he didn’t appear to be able to see treats that were right in front of him. Concerned, Nadine sought the advice of her vet and received some surprising news about her one-eyed boy. “The vets did several tests and it turned out that he’s completely blind and can’t even see shadows,” says Nadine.
Though some people might be shocked that no one at the rescue — who had cared for Donovan for more than a year — realized he was actually completely blind, Nadine really isn’t that surprised. “Donovan seems almost like a ‘normal’ cat and even I needed a few days to realize he’s blind,” explains Nadine.
While Nadine didn’t set out to adopt a blind cat, she’s very glad she decided to provide Donovan with a forever home and she’s actually thankful she didn’t know about his blindness beforehand. “I was looking for a playmate for my other cat and I am glad I didn’t know because I would’ve thought he might not be able to play with him,” explains Nadine, “but since I didn’t know it, I treated him like a normal cat and that’s what he’s always been. If you don’t know he’s blind, you wouldn’t even notice.”
Despite being unable to see, Donovan is extremely active and loves to play, especially with Giuliano. “At least once a day he plays tag with his cat friend Giuliano and they run through the house together,” says Nadine. “Whenever Donovan loses his friend, he cries for him and Giuliano has learned to understand it and comes back to Donovan.”
When he’s not spending time with Giuliano, Donovan enjoys chasing after his toys, cuddling with the dogs, sitting by the window to listen to the birds, and just hanging out with his mom. “He also loves the watering can,” says Nadine. “Whenever he hears it, he runs to me and wants to play with the water.”
However, approximately two months after Donovan arrived at Nadine’s home, he had a seizure. “His whole body shook and he gasped for air and seemed to choke,” says Nadine. “I tried to be calm but panicked as I thought he was dying.” Needless to say, Nadine was extremely concerned for Donovan, and she took him a number of different experts. While he was diagnosed with epilepsy and given medication, no one has been able to give a definitive explanation for the seizures. “The vet thinks that maybe it’s brain damage caused by the cat flu infection or a trauma,” says Nadine.
When phenobarbital failed to control Donovan’s epilepsy, the vet agreed to try natural supplements, and since then, this handsome one-eyed cat has had a seizure about every four months instead of every two. “Epilepsy is like a puzzle game, sadly,” says Nadine, “but I won’t give up as long as there’s hope to find out what will help him.” After all, it’s been about a year and a half since Donovan came to live with Nadine, and the two have formed an incredibly strong bond during this time.
“I had depression for quite a while and on top of it, I lost my dear grandparents shortly after I got him,” explains Nadine, “but Donovan is something special. He’s been through so much and he can’t even see but yet his little world is so perfect and wonderful.” While many people might be reluctant to adopt a blind cat with epilepsy, Nadine is so thankful she did, and she’s confident looking after a special needs feline isn’t as challenging as a lot of people might expect.
Aside from rearranging her furniture and cat trees to make it easier for Donovan to get around — and to create a safer environment for when he has a seizure — Nadine hasn’t had to make a lot of accommodations for this special boy. In fact, while people with blind cats often try to avoid moving objects in their homes, Nadine actually makes a point of giving Donovan obstacles to navigate.”It’s often said that you shouldn’t move things around but I don’t agree,” says Nadine. “I do it on purpose so Donovan stays flexible and he never even bumps into a bag that wasn’t there before.”
While Donovan’s blindness and epilepsy present some challenges for both him and his mom, Nadine is adamant both of these conditions have enabled them to form a deeper bond than they would have had otherwise. “He trusts me as I became his eyes and he became my heart,” says Nadine. “He know that I’m there for him if he really needs me and in return I get a deep love and trust I never thought was even possible.”
Before Donovan came into her life, Nadine was struggling with depression which was only made worse by the passing of her beloved grandparents, but she credits this incredibly optimistic and resilient boy with helping her overcome her sorrow and hopelessness. “He has his white and golden fur for a reason,” says Nadine. “He was the light that lit the darkness I lived in. He literally saved my life.”
To learn more about this handsome cat, you can follow Donovan on Instagram.