Bear’s unique appearance may still reflect his traumatic start to life, but for the playful kitten it's a distant memory – thanks to Blue Cross and his loving new owners.
He was in an appalling state when he arrived at our Suffolk rehoming centre back in December with a severe strain of cat flu, alongside two other kittens from different litters in the same home.
Poor Bear – then called Elf – could barely see due to ulcers on his eyes and his inner eyelids fusing together, which meant he needed two operations within a matter of weeks to save his vision.
The then three-month-old kitten was left with deformed eyelids as a result, but his different looks didn’t put off Tara Newton and Luke Thomas from rehoming him – in fact, they love him even more for it.
“We wanted to give a home to a cat with a disability, as a lot of people overlook them. I saw Bear on the website and I just knew we had to have him. He looked like such a lovely little guy and he is,” said Tara.
“When we met him he just took to us straight away, he was climbing all over us,” said Luke.
So it was love at first sight for the couple, who made a seven hour round trip to take Bear, now 10 months old, back home with them to Yeovil, Somerset.
Despite having partially obstructed eyesight, he is now thriving and takes the four times daily eye drops and morning and night eye baths in his stride.
“He’s so good and just lets us do it. As his tear ducts are deformed due to all the operations he’s had the eye drops make sure his eyes stay lubricated, but he doesn’t mind,” said Tara.
The type of cat flu that Bear contracted, which is caused by the feline herpes virus, will remain in his body for life as there is no cure. Tara and Luke will keep a close eye on any signs of flare-ups such as a runny nose or sneezing, but he’s had no further problems so far.
And he has gone from being the quietest of the three kittens brought to the Suffolk rehoming centre to tearing around the house wanting to play all the time – and his tiny “chirp” has turned into a miaow.
“The centre said he was very independent – we think that when he was in his first home that because he couldn’t see very well, he would just be on his own while the other kittens played. So we were told he wasn’t that playful, but now he’s the most playful cat I’ve known,” Tara said.
“When we first got him home he was running around everywhere, we thought he was scared,” said Luke. “Then the next day we started to realise that it wasn’t that he was worried but that he hadn’t had the chance to run around before.”
He is so loving and affectionate. To go through so much at such a young age and still be so friendly is amazing."
“He was just so excited to have all this space to himself, as he had been in quarantine at the centre to stop him passing the virus onto other cats and we think he was kept in a small space in the previous home,” added Tara.
As well as developing an unwavering zest for life, Bear, who has his very own bedroom filled with toys and a cosy bed, has also grown extremely fond of his new owners.
“When we get in from work he runs straight up to us,” said Luke. “Wherever we go, he’s got to be there.”
“He is so loving and affectionate,” said Tara. “To go through so much at such a young age and still be so friendly is amazing.”
Although Bear does venture out into the garden, due to his impeded eyesight he is always accompanied by Tara or Luke to ensure he doesn’t get into any sticky situations he can’t navigate his way out of. But such is the bond between him and the couple, he doesn’t like to be far away from them anyway – and the feeling is mutual.
“To us he doesn’t look any different, he’s perfect. We love him so much, he’s such a good boy. He’s our best buddy,” said Tara.
Luke continued: “He’s brought lots of mischief and fun with him and makes our home a happier one. We couldn’t imagine life without him now.”
Animal Welfare Supervisor Clare Williamson from our Suffolk rehoming centre said: “We’re so happy that Bear, as well as the kittens he arrived with, are now in loving homes. Their previous owners had struggled to keep up with medication for them, so we took them in as soon as we could.
“Poor Bear couldn’t see at all when he first arrived and was shy and withdrawn. So to hear that he’s so energetic, playful and affectionate in his new home is really heartwarming for us.”
Clare added that Bear’s case demonstrated the importance of neutering to prevent unwanted litters, particularly in homes with multiple cats. For more advice on this, click here.