Monday, April 14, 2014

Dillon the Blind Cat: An Inspiring Interview

This past weekend, I wrote a blog post about "tripawds" - three-legged dogs and how amazingly resilient they are.  Today, I'm going to feature another furry friend who has special needs, though this kitty isn't so much "special needs" as he is a rockstar with senses that most other cats don't possess!  Dillon is a blind rescue kitten who was picked up as a stray by the Animal Rescue League of Boston, who later found out he had eyes that never fully developed.  His eyes were removed to reduce risk of infection, and little Dillon was put into foster care with a loving couple and two other cats.  As is often the case, these foster parents became foster fails - they fell head over heels in love with Dillon and turned his temporary home into a forever home!

Since then, Dillon (as dillontheblindcat) has become something of an Instagram sensation.  Buzzfeed even featured him in an article on "up-and-coming pets," and he now has over 5,000 followers!  Fans of Dillon seem inspired by the curious kitty - though he is without eyes, he is far from disabled.  On the contrary, his photos show him to be quite a normal young cat; he maneuvers onto furniture and down stairs with no problem, and the attention he gives things that most cats and humans don't even notice really seems to speak to people.  I was lucky enough to ask Dillon's human mom a few questions, and she had some wonderfully eloquent responses.  Check it out below!  All photos are from Dillon's Facebook account and can also be found on his Instagram.

Dillon and his mom

First, tell me a little bit about yourself, your family, your kitties, etc.  Have you always been an animal lover?
I have always had a special bond with animals -- I feel that the compassion and love that I have for them has always run deep in my veins, an instinct. I especially connect well with cats. Their body language is easy for me to read, and I rather think like a cat myself, so I can relate to them. While I love all animals, cats certainly have a special place in my heart. A relationship with any one cat is completely unique -- and to receive love from a cat is undoubtedly rewarding. Cats are honest about how they feel -- they don't lie about loving anyone. So, I find that earning a cat's love really does say a lot.

To no surprise, I have three cats. They were all rescued [separately] from the streets of Dorchester, MA by good citizens who brought them to the Animal Rescue League of Boston, where they would find a home with my fiancé and me. I used to work at the Animal Rescue League of Boston, and after I took a new job I still continued to volunteer as a foster parent. Each of our cats was, at one point, one of our foster cats. 

Tell me a bit about Dillon.  What made you decide to adopt a special needs kitty?  What is his personality like, and does his lack of vision seem to affect him?
Our youngest [cat] is Dillon. Dillon lived as a stray for four whole months before getting picked up by a volunteer and taken to the Animal Rescue League of Boston for a community spay and neuter program, called a "Trap and Release" (or TNR) clinic. Most cats that come into TNR clinics are feral, meaning they are pretty un-domesticated, or wild. (Contrary to popular belief, not all "stray" cats are "feral". Feral cats would not do well in a home, in fact they could be very stressed and depressed. They do best in their own community of feral cats.) Volunteers quickly noticed that Dillon was not feral, however, and decided that he would be a suitable candidate for adoption rather than for re-release into the feral cat community. Also, it did not seem fair to re-release a cat in Dillon's condition -- Dillon never had fully developed eyes. 

Veterinarians could not specifically determine whether his underdeveloped eyes were the result of genetics or ocular herpes (a common virus that most cats are exposed to, whether they exhibit symptoms or not), but they did believe that he was completely without sight. My fiancé and I fostered Dillon for a few days before he was scheduled for surgery to have his "eyes" (though they weren't much of eyes at all) to be removed to prevent ulceration and infection. We did not notice any difference in behavior or personality before and after the surgery. He did not seem confused or depressed, which was even more confirmation to us that he was never able to see in the first place.

We think he is a very lucky cat, considering the fact that he doesn't have eyes. His other senses were able to develop so fully as a kitten that he lives an extraordinary life now, with enhanced hearing and smell. He is curious, brave, and tenacious, and we believe that is how he survived for so long on his own before he was rescued.

I have to admit, it was love at first sight for me. The moment I got him in the car with me to take him home, I knew. I said to him as he rubbed his little face on my hands, purring, "You're coming home with me, and our family is going to love you for the rest of your life." He had my heart. How could he not?

My fiancé fell in love instantly when he met him, too, and we knew we were going to adopt him. We nursed him through his recovery from surgery, and watched him build a relationship with our other two cats. It wasn't long before he had memorized every inch of our apartment. He was so fluent with his surroundings that he didn't need to check with his paw to make sure he was where he thought he was -- he would just jump right up onto furniture because he knew it was there. We were so amazed with his intelligence, and with how gracefully he was going through life without such a major sensory organ. 

It was especially neat to see his fascination with stairs. We had carpeted stairs, so they were good for him to cling to at first, when he wasn't sure of what they were. Once he became familiar with what they were and how they felt, he would race up and down the stairs over and over. He was so happy and excited when we threw toys down there for him to fetch. Oh yes, and he plays fetch!

He is truly amazing. Most people who follow Dillon on Instagram and Facebook remark on how good we are to adopt a "special needs" kitty, and how difficult it must be. But I have to say that Dillon is far from "special needs". He is so incredibly normal, usually I forget he doesn't have eyes. He even "stares" us right in the face most of the time, and he is constantly getting the better of his sisters. 

He has completely embraced his blindness, which has really taught us so much. Watching him discover the world without eyes is, ironically, eye-opening. We binocular beings often take little things for granted, like the smell of a passing breeze, or the sound of a crackling ice cube in water. For Dillon, it's an entire mystery and fascination. To watch him explore with such interest something that seems to us, and to our other cats, so mundane is truly inspiring. It is such a positive way to view life, and reminds us to appreciate even the smallest experiences. 

What made you decide to rescue instead of buying a pet from a pet store/breeder?  
There is something deep about the connection you make with a cat from a shelter. Many shelter cats have a sad history -- they were either abandoned, abused, hoarded, or orphaned -- and yet if you visit with a shelter cat, most of them will embrace your love and will return your affection within seconds of meeting you. 

There is something about saving a cat from its possibly sad past and promising to love and care for it for the remainder of its life that is so cathartic. Most people who have adopted rescue animals will tell you that their animal actually saved them. It couldn't be truer -- it's a completely symbiotic relationship, where the exchange is purely love.  This is, of course, true of any shelter or rescue animal, not just of cats.

What would you tell people who don't understand the importance of adopting?
 It is so important for us to remember how much we help our community and animals in need when we adopt, rather than when we "buy". There are so many good people and organizations out there that do so much to aid helpless, homeless animals, and I know from experience that the work is far from easy. It makes the tough days worth it when a shelter animal finds its forever-home -- it's a happy ending that brings tears to your eyes. So, the question really is, why wouldn't you adopt? The reward is just so great.

We are so happy that Dillon is so loved and adored by thousands of people, as we've seen on Instagram and Facebook. His fans say some of the sweetest things that just warm our hearts to no end. Some people have told him that just his picture has completely turned their day around for the better, and that he is an inspiration -- that is just so wonderful to hear. We are so pleased to have a cat that not only is loved by us, but that is loved by many, and who now has the following to potentially make a difference for other animals in need. He and our other cats are the lights of our lives, and we can't even fathom the day when they will no longer be with us. Until then, though, we will love them just as they love us, whole-heartedly and without question. 

For photos and information on Dillon, follow @dillontheblindcat on Instagram, or "like" him at .

Well said on SO many counts, Dillon's mom!  :)  Dillon is a great example of why you should take a second look at the cat (or dog!) that other people might pass by in the shelter.  What makes them different is what makes them special, and, like Dillon, they could end up inspiring you and changing your life.  

A HUGE thank you to Dillon and his parents for the interview, and thanks to all of you for reading <3


  1. This is a great interview! I've never heard of Dillon, but I will be following him on Instagram now (I just got an account last week ;). I love hearing wonderful stories about special needs pets that find loving homes and really flourish and thrive. Dillon's story is wonderful. Thank you for sharing, and concatulations to Dillon for finding such a wonderful and loving home!

    1. Isn't he precious?! I love seeing a picture of him pop up on my Instagram feed; that face makes my whole day! :) Special needs success stories are my favorite - it makes me have so much more faith in the goodness of people :) Thanks for reading!

  2. Thanks for bringing Dillon to our attention. It's amazing that he survived so long on his own. It looks like he found the perfect guardians to watch over him. Very nice interview.

    1. Thank you, and thanks for reading! Dillon's parents are wonderful people, as are all the people out there who rescue pets with special needs :) <3

  3. I loved this truly inspiring interview. I've been following Dillon, and I love him so much. This story is a wonderful example of how animals are so important to us humans. thank you!

    1. Thank you so much for reading! I love Dillon's story; his parents seem like such amazing, caring people! I'm so glad he found them :)