Pet of the Week: Blind Tilly is ‘very adaptable’

Tilly is a special needs cat waiting for adoption at the Shenandoah County SPCA Animal Shelter. Tilly is blind. Kevin Green/Daily

Tilly, a 3- to 5-year-old domestic shorthair cat, seems like the kind of pet that would qualify as an excellent lap companion.

Thelma Rhinehart, caretaker of the Shenandoah County SPCA Animal Shelter, said Tilly adapts “pretty well to her surroundings” and loves to be petted.

This might make Tilly sound like any normal domestic shorthair, expect for one thing. Tilly is a “special needs cat” that happens to be blind.

“We think she can see shadows … she’s very affectionate, but she does not like to be picked up too much,” Rhinehart said.

When picked up, Rhinehart noted — as well as displayed —  Tilly is “OK with it” at first, but after a certain amount of time wants to have her feet on the ground.

“Some cats are like that,” Rhinehart explained, adding that this attitude could also have to do with her condition. “She can’t really tell where she’s going.”

Although she likes to be petted and likes playing the role of lap-cat, Rhinehart noted that those have to be done “on her terms.”

“She’s pretty mellow. She’s not real active, but when you come in to pet and talk to her, she does get up and move around,” Rhinehart said. “She’s not any trouble at all.”

Tilly arrived at the shelter Feb. 2, after a Woodstock resident picked her up and turned her in to the shelter.

Upon arrival, Rhinehart said that Tilly was a “little scared, of course” adding that all of the animals the shelter receives are scared at first.

“We didn’t realize she was blind at first, until we started … taking her out and seeing that she was having a little bit of difficulty adjusting,” Rhinehart said.

Rhinehart also noted that Tilly  “was not receptive” to being touched or petted while living in one of the shelter’s crates. “She didn’t know what was coming at her, I guess.”

After noticing this, Rhinehart said, they relocated her to live in one of the offices.

To make her feel comfortable, the shelter retrofitted a Rubbermaid cabinet to resemble the bed of a small cat. They also closed the area off with gates.

Of the makeshift office home, Rhinehart said, “In here, you call her name and she comes right to you.”

Rhinehart noted that potential owners might need a little bit of patience and the ability to work with a special needs cat.

According to Rhinehart, this would basically entail introducing Tilly to “a certain space” of the house at first, much like the shelter’s office.

“She would gradually, if you put her in a house, learn a bigger area,” Rhinehart said, adding that Tilly “adapts to everything, as long as you keep it pretty much in the same place.”

Rhinehart said that it might also help if someone already owns “animal-friendly” pets.

“Most animals, when you bring a pet in, they can sense if another pet has disabilities and they’ll adapt to that with respect, usually,” Rhinehart said.

“Children would have to be introduced gradually, and respectfully,” Rhinehart added. “I would not suggest real small children.”

On the whole, Rhinehart said, children around the ages of 2 or 3 “wouldn’t know how to handle her. You would have to watch them constantly.”

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com