Blind Cat Rescue: #CatChat with Katherine Hilton
Since starting Supakit in 2016, it has been a dream of ours to grow the company to a point where we could begin to support cat charities. In February, 2021 we were thrilled to announce that we had partnered with an incredible kitty sanctuary, Blind Cat Rescue who offer a forever home to blind cats as well as kitties who have tested positive for FIV and Feline Leukaemia.
For every order placed with Supakit, we donate two meals to the cats at Blind Cat Rescue and it's thanks to our wonderful Supakit customers that we are able to support a cause that is so close to our hearts.
For our monthly Instagram Live #catchat we were delighted to speak with Katherine Hilton from Blind Cat Rescue who told us more about the awesome care this lifetime sanctuary provides.
Read on for the full #catchat below, or if you'd rather watch the video, head over to our IGTV channel here!
For those who aren’t familiar with the organisation, could you explain a little bit about Blind Cat Rescue?
Katherine: Blind Cat Rescue is a very unique sanctuary for blind cats and cats who test positive for FIV and Feline Leukaemia. The reason it was started is because cats who have those conditions are euthanized in shelters before they get a chance to be adopted. Our founder and President, Alana was volunteering at an animal shelter when a blind kitten was brought in and they were going to euthanize this kitty, she said “No! This can’t be!” and from her determination and passion, the sanctuary was born.
One kitten eventually became more and more and eventually Alana realised she needed to make it official and open up a sanctuary.
Fantastic! Whereabouts are you in the world?
Katherine: We are in St Pauls, North Carolina in the United States which is a very small town. We have a beautiful compound, it’s very quiet and rural. We have open houses every month and people can come and visit, even if they’re just passing through, we love to welcome people!
We do have a 24 hour live webcam feed that people can tune into. We have covered ‘catios’ where the cats can spend time outside securely as well as houses inside. We have cameras in all areas so even people who are on the other side of the world can tune in and see the kitties. This allows the kind people who sponsor the cats to really see what their kitty is getting up to.
We’ve watched the webcams and you wouldn’t know that the cats were blind! It’s amazing to watch.
Katherine: Absolutely, our founder’s motto is ‘They don’t know they’re blind, they just know they’re cats.’ That is one hundred percent true, if you watch the videos on the Blind Cat Rescue YouTube channel you’ll see a video of the cats ‘bird watching’ and Pixie, who has no eyes, is one of those cats! They don’t act differently from any other cat, they have other senses that take over and help them get through life. But truly, it’s us humans that are the ones who label them. The cats don’t know any different, they just function as they would usually.
Tell us about your own feline family, we understand that you have a blind cat of your own?
Katherine: Yes, we have three cats – one of them is blind and her name is Marla. She’s the reason that we met Blind Cat Rescue in the first place. In 2010 we lost two of our beloved cats and wanted to adopt another one, my husband found a picture of a cat online who was blind. We didn’t really know much about caring for a blind cat so he got in touch and Alana, the sanctuary founder told us her famous motto – ‘they don’t know they’re blind, they just know they’re cats’ so we went ahead and adopted Marla who lives happily with us and our two other rescue cats.
What would you say to someone who is in a similar position, who wants to adopt a blind cat but doesn't know much about caring for them?
Katherine: I would suggest doing some homework first, but really I would just say - “Go ahead and adopt that cat!”. Blind cats have an amazing ability to figure out the lay of the land; they know where they are, they know where the furniture is, where the stairs are. I wouldn’t let a blind cat outside on its own, they need a Supakit harness to do that! But when they’re in their homes, they’re fine. As I would say with any adoption, go and meet that cat, bond and make a connection with them.
Were there any adjustments you had to make to your house before Marla came home or is it just the same as bringing any other cat home?
Katherine: It’s just the same, you want to introduce them slowly, let them take their time meeting any other pets but Marla just found her way around. She knows where the furniture is and when we introduce anything new like the Christmas tree, we’ll show her where it is so she gets used to it.
We know you have great facilities at Blind Cat Rescue for the kitties that live there permanently, could you tell us more about them?
Katherine: Yes, we have large ‘catios’ which offer safe outside space. They’re fenced off and have a roof as well as large garage doors that can be pulled down in case of bad weather. We have lots of climbers, cat trees, a cat wheel and places for them to sleep. It’s really well laid out so they have their inside houses and outside space which backs onto a garden that has lots of bird houses, so they can hear birdsong and the flapping of their wings, it’s a really enriching space.
Could you tell us a little bit about the cats in your care, what is the journey they’ve taken before ending up in the sanctuary at Blind Cat Rescue?
Katherine: A lot of our cats have initially been rescued by volunteers at Animal Control Centres and shelters across the country who have said “I can’t stand for this cat not to live and find a home.” So, they’ll reach out to us and if we have room, we’ll certainly welcome them. Some people will drive 8 or 9 hours to get a cat here. We have a volunteer angel who will fly with cats and we’ll meet her at the airport to bring the cats into our care.
Once a cat comes here, they’ll go through a thorough medical exam because often they’re not neutered or will have ongoing health problems. Any medical issues will be taken care of at that time and they will then stay in our quarantine area for a week or two while we make sure everything is ok and make an assessment of their personality – are they terrified? Are they relaxed? We’ll then adjust their care and routine according to what their needs are. They’ll then be slowly introduced into our rooms with the other cats. Some of the existing cats can be a little touchy about new cats coming in but they’re pretty chilled most of the time!
Some newly arrived cats are initially terrified and I love to see the change in them. They begin to learn that they’re safe and will have a love-filled life and will get to know the people that will look after them, I just love to watch them visibly relax.
Is Blind Cat Rescue a forever home for most of the cats in your care?
Katherine: Absolutely, Blind Cat Rescue is a sanctuary and once they’re here, they’re here for life! One kitty we have here, Candy, we thought she was blind and had some other developmental problems. Turns out, Candy can see! She’s actually fine, but she’s still here. Now we know that she’s ok, we’re not going to turn her away, she’s here and this is her home. Candy now rules the roost and her favourite thing is to be held like a baby
You must see huge transformations in the cats once they settle in?
Katherine: It’s amazing! One of the cats my husband and I sponsor, Misty, came from a hoarding situation. She was so terrified when she came that she would wedge herself between the litter box and the side of the cage with her head turned away from the door. Now, over time she’s so relaxed. In fact, she’s sprawled out over a pillow as we speak! She just knows that she’s safe now.
We noticed from watching your videos on the Blind Cat Rescue YouTube channel how happy and relaxed the cats are. Do you think that is down to the staff there and how well they care for them?
Katherine: Yes, the staff here are very attentive to the cats, they know them better than anybody. So they know exactly what to do and what not to do to help a cat. If one is particularly scared, they’ll be very attuned to that and know what their needs are. They do a superb job every day.
The veterinary care for so many cats must also be a huge undertaking for you?
Katherine: Fortunately, our vet is not that far away. A couple of times a week, we’ll put the cats in their carriers and take one group to the vets as another group is on their way back! A lot of our cats are Feline Leukaemia positive, so they require lots of medication and supplements to maintain their health. At the moment, the staff are getting ready to administer their night time medicines. We have a couple of cats that are also asthmatic so they’ll give them their treatments for that twice a day and another cat is on fluids. Our staff have to be extraordinarily skilled to look after these cats so well and they do!
The other task you must face is educating people on how to care for blind cats and those with medical needs to help to prevent more cats ending up in your care. How do you go about doing that?
Katherine: As well as welcoming people here to see our work first hand, we try to spread the word as much as we can online. We’re all over the internet; on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and even TikTok! All of those channels feature videos of the cats in action, our staff members stream live tours of the sanctuary twice a day where they go around through the houses and talk about the cats. People can then see what these cats are capable of.
We’re so thrilled to see the increasing number of people adopting blind cats because they’ve learned through watching our channels that they can indeed offer them a full and enriched life.
Is there anywhere people can go to access information if they’re worried about their cats sight or any of the other medical problems you’ve mentioned?
Katherine: If anyone even suspects that there is something going on with their cat, go to the vet right away. One of the main reasons a cat can go blind is from an upper respiratory infection that is not treated. You don’t want your cat to get to the stage where it begins to affect their eyes because it is very serious. We have a blog on our website, www.blindcatrescue.com that has a lot of videos and articles on all aspects of cat health.
Is it correct that some conditions that cause blindness in cats are not always permanent?
Katherine: That’s right and why it is so important to notice any changes in your cat’s health early on. Often vets won’t check a cat’s blood pressure and high blood pressure can be a condition that can cause a cat to go blind by detaching the retinas in the eye. We had a cat arrive a couple of years ago that was both blind and deaf, he immediately went to the vet as all our cats do and we discovered that he had high blood pressure. He went on medication straight away to treat the condition and actually regained some of his sight.
Where can people go to watch your amazing videos, learn more about Blind Cat Rescue and support the incredible work that you do?
Katherine: The best thing is to go to our website, www.blindcatrescue.com there you can find a page that has information on each of our cats. You’ll need to keep a box of tissues handy because their stories are emotional! There is also a link on our website to watch our live, 24 hour camera feeds. You can head to Facebook and watch videos of our tours. We’re very interactive on our social media channels and are always very happy to chat to anyone that gets in contact. We also have a Friends of Blind Cat Rescue Facebook group where people post fun stories and videos of things their own cats have been doing.
For more heart-warming videos of the incredible kitties at Blind Cat Rescue, be sure to head over to their YouTube channel, Facebook page and Instagram page where you can learn even more about the incredible work they do.
Related posts: 'How To Keep Your Cat Happy At Home' and 'How To Care For An Old Cat'