I believe that for most cats, a cat sitter is a better option than boarding when their guardians have to travel, but there may be situations where boarding is your only option. Boarding can be stressful for cats in general, but this is especially true for special needs cats. I recently wrote an article for Pet Boarding and Daycare magazine, which is republished here with permission. If you find yourself faced with having to board your blind or deaf cat, make sure that the boarding facility staff understands how to care for these special kitties. Continue Reading
Is your cat suddenly bumping into furniture? Does she have trouble finding her food bowl? Is he becoming unusually withdrawn or fearful? These sudden behavior changes can be an indication of a condition called “sudden blindness.” Causes for can include sudden trauma, high blood pressure, or a neurological event. In rare cases, the antibiotic enrofloxacin (brand name Baytril) can cause sudden blindness. Continue Reading
Blindness is a partial or total loss of vision. It can be congenital, or occur suddenly as a result of illness or trauma. It can also come on gradually from progressive diseases such as high blood pressure, cataracts, or glaucoma. Since cats are extremely good at compensating and adapting, complete or even partial loss of vision can be challenging to detect.Continue Reading
Gwen Cooper is the author of Homer’s Odyssey – A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wondercat, and the novel Diary of a South Beach Party Girl. A Miami native, Gwen spent five years working in non-profit administration, marketing, and fundraising. She coordinated and led direct-service volunteer activities on behalf of organizations including Pet Rescue, the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind, the Miami Rescue Mission, His House, Habitat for Humanity, Ronald McDonald House, the Daily Bread Food Bank, and Family Resource Center (an organization providing emergency shelter for abused and neglected children). She also initiated Reading Pen Pals, an elementary school-based literacy program in Miami’s Little Haiti.
Gwen currently lives in Manhattan with her husband, Laurence. She also lives with her three perfect cats—Scarlett, Vashti, and Homer—who aren’t impressed with any of it.
I’m delighted to welcome Gwen Cooper to The Conscious Cat today.
Gwen, Homer’s Odyssey made the New York Times Bestseller list less than two weeks after its publication. It’s a wonderful book and I’m not surprised at its immediate success. What does it feel like to see your book become so successful in such a short amount of time?
It’s hard for me to say, because it still hasn’t really sunk in yet! So mostly what I’ve felt is shock, interspersed with moments of pure elation.
When did you first know you would write a book about Homer?
November of 2007. I’d had the idea a couple of months earlier, but that November was when I finally felt like I knew, in general terms at least, what the story would be and how it would be written.
I was captivated by your story and by Homer almost from the very first page, but I was particularly moved by your account of the events of 9/11 and the days following. You lived through every pet owner’s nightmare. As a result of this experience, do you have any advice for pet owners to prepare for emergency situations?
That’s a tough question to answer, insofar as there are some things in life you can’t fully prepare for. But what I learned from the experience was that I should always have at least a week’s worth of supplies—food, litter, a few gallons of water—in my apartment at all times. My cats ended up trapped in my apartment near Ground Zero for days before I could get back to them, and because I didn’t have any extra supplies handy, I had to walk for miles—and then climb thirty-one flights of stairs—with two gallons of water, seven pounds of litter, and five pounds of cat food. The process of getting back to them might not have been faster if I hadn’t had to carry all of that, but it certainly would have been easier.
What was the writing process like for you?
The process of outlining this book was long and agonizing and had me tearing my hair out at times. How to summarize twelve years of a life in 80,000 words or less? But once I had my outline done, the writing itself was pure joy.
What does a typical day of writing look like for you?
I’m usually up between 5:30 and 6:00am, and writing by no later than 7:00am. Then I write for as long as I can until I run out of steam. Usually I try to put in at least an eight-hour writing day, but of course some days go much longer and others are much shorter.
What do you love most about being a writer?
What do you like least about being a writer?
Writing! I’m sure a lot of writers out there will know exactly what I mean when I say it’s frequently a love/hate relationship.
Who or what inspires you?
There’s no one specific thing, except that I’ve always been in love with language itself. As soon as I get an idea for a really great phrase or sentence, I’m off and running.
I’m also always inspired by the idea of telling a great story. With Homer, the initial “a-ha” moment came when I realized that a book about this blind cat, and the impact he’s had on the lives around him, would be filled with action, adventure, romance, heroes, villains, journeys, quests, triumph in the face of adversity, and all the great narrative “bones” that underlie a story truly worth telling. Once I realized that, I couldn’t wait to get the story on paper and out into the world.
What is one of the most memorable experiences you’ve had at a book signing or event?
Actually, the first reading I ever did for a book I’d written was the reading I did in Miami Beach to launch Diary of a South Beach Party Girl. I’d moved from South Beach to New York about six or seven years earlier, and very few of the friends I’d had before the move still lived in Miami—so I knew my parents and some of their friends would come, but I didn’t expect much of a crowd. But around 150 people showed up! I was absolutely floored, and it was just a really great way to kick off that book.
I’m working on a proposal for another book, although my agent has basically threatened me with death if I talk about it before it’s written. (I kid! But, seriously, she’s anxious to keep it under wraps for now.)
And lastly, what does Homer think about his newfound fame?
Homer is taking it pretty much in stride, although we’ve been getting a ton of gift baskets and toys and gourmet cat treats lately. I’ve probably always spoiled my cats, but now they’re really spoiled, and I sometimes wonder if Homer wonders why he’s suddenly so indulged these days.
Thank you so much for this opportunity, Gwen, and much continued success with Homer’s Odyssey!
Thank you—and thanks for having me on your blog!
You can learn more about Gwen and her book on her website , and you can find her on Facebook.
Some books about animals warm your heart. Others touch your soul. Homer’s Odyssey, subtitled A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wondercat falls into the second category. This moving, inspirational and often funny story about a blind cat with a huge spirit and an endless capacity for love, joy and a determination to persevere no matter what the obstacles is a wonderful celebration of the bond between a cat and his human and the transformational power of loving an animal.
Homer’s story begins when the stray kitten is brought to Miami veterinarian Dr. Patty Khuly (who wrote the foreword to the book), host of the popular veterinary blog Dolittler, at only three weeks of age. Homer loses both eyes to a severe eye infection, and while nobody would have faulted Dr. Khuly for euthanizing this kitten, she saw something in him that made her determined to save him. When Gwen gets a call from Dr. Khuly asking whether she would come take a look at this kitten, the last thing the author wants is another cat. She already has two, and she’s worried about crossing the line into crazy cat lady territory by adopting another one. But she agrees to take a look – and falls in love.
Homer, the blind kitten who doesn’t know he’s blind, has a giant heart and an indomitable spirit. He quickly adapts to new situations and environments, and turns into a feline daredevil who scales tall bookcases in a single bound and catches flies by jumping five feet into the air. Eventually, Gwen and the three cats move from Miami to New York City (and the story of their move is an adventure that will have you on the edge of your seat with worry and concern for this family of four). Adjusting to city living in a cold climate takes some time, but once again, Homer’s adaptable spirit triumphs. He even survives being trapped with his two feline companion for days after 9/11 in an apartment near the World Trade Center.
But it wasn’t Homer’s physical feats and his ability to adapt to physical limitations that ultimately transformed the author’s life. Homer’s unending capacity for love and joy, no matter what life’s challenges may be, were a daily inspiration for Gwen, and ultimately taught her the most important lesson of all: Love isn’t something you see with your eyes.
It’s rare that a pet memoir is the kind of book you can’t put down – but this one is. Thankfully, I knew at the outset that Home is alive and well, so unlike what happens with so many books in this genre, I didn’t expect to cry while reading this book. Little did I know how the gut-wrenching account of the author’s experience in the days following 9/11 would affect me. Gwen Cooper lived through every cat owners’ nightmare – fearing for the safety and survival of her cats, and being unable to get to them for several days. The moving narrative and emotional impact of this chapter will leave few cat lovers unaffected.
Homer’s Odyssey is a must-read, to quote from the book’s cover, “for anybody who’s ever fallen completely and hopelessly in love with a pet.”
Coming soon on The Conscious Cat: an interview with author Gwen Cooper.