Braille is like any other kitten: she purrs, she meows, and she plays with her furry sisters in her family’s living room. The only thing that’s different about her, is her absence of eyes.
However, Braille refuses to let that create a difference between her and the other cats.
The kitten was abandoned in a Philadelphia church parking lot in June. At four weeks old, she had almost no chance of survival until she was rescued by her current fur parents: Rowan alum Erin Signor, 22, and her girlfriend Sara Konnecke, 25.
“She is kind of perfect,” Signor said. “She is a great animal and you don’t notice she has a disability until you look at her face.”
Konnecke works at the customer service desk of the Animal Care & Control Team (ACCT) shelter in Philadelphia and was the first person to see the kitten after she was brought in by the citizen who found her.
“We get at least 200 animals a day,” Konnecke said. “I hear excuses like ‘we’re moving but can’t take our 10-year-old dog with us’ all the time.”
The shelter assessed Braille’s health, and determined that euthanizing her was the best option. But, despite the kitten’s emaciated body, bulging eyes and flea infestation, Konnecke saw a small life that needed to be saved.
“This changed me as an animal lover…I really got a good sense of how to take care of an animal.” – Erin Signor
Signor and Konnecke already had two cats and several foster kittens, yet they welcomed the kitten into their Cherry Hill home and started rehabilitating her. They named her Braille for the written language Signor taught herself as a child.
She needed hot compresses on her eyes, daily flushing with saline and needs three different types of medication a day. Braille was also diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection (URI).
“This changed me as an animal lover because it made me realize a lot of the issues animal owners and animals themselves go through,” Signor said. “I really got a good sense of how to take care of an animal.”
“In a way it’s good because this is her normal,” Signor said. “She never realized she was supposed to see.”
Removing her eyes was a “necessity.” One night as Signor and Konnecke were bathing Braille, she sneezed, causing her eye to rupture out of her socket. The vets told Signor that the risk of Braille having surgery was better than the risk of watching the infection become fatal.
The day Braille came home from surgery, Signor and Konnecke had already witnessed a miraculous transformation; she purred for the first time ever. One of Braille’s nine lives was just beginning.
To raise money for Braille’s veterinary bills, Signor and Konnecke started a GoFundMe campaign. Braille’s story has since gone viral, with over 3,600 likes on her Facebook page and $995 raised out of their goal of $1,200 on GoFundMe. She has also been featured on Daily Mail and The Huffington Post.
Braille later put Signor and Konnecke through another loop with a recent health issue development. She started to have seizures – four in one week. The doctors suspected the seizures were from either an epileptic problem or head trauma. Since starting her medicine, she has been fine.
Overall, she is a healthy cat with a huge appetite. Signor and Konnecke are amazed at the speed and ease at which she gets around and finds the other cats in the house. When Signor gets home from work every day, she finds Braille at the top of the cat tree.
“I call her [Braille] my biggest success.” – Erin Signor
Braille often keeps her mouth open, which makes Signor think that she uses her sense of smell to navigate. When dinner is ready, she is the first to smell it.
“She is a very special cat. She doesn’t act like the others,” Signor said.
Signor is both an animal lover and an engineer. She graduated from Rowan last semester with a Bachelor’s in civil & environmental engineering, and was recently hired by the U.S. Navy. Signor gets a lot of comments about her two interests being completely opposite.
“You can have a passion and not really make it a career,” Signor said. “I call her [Braille] my biggest success. Graduating and getting my degree was one thing. It wasn’t easy, but that was just mindless whereas this [fostering cats] was more like you had to do it from the heart.”
Signor is considering getting Braille certified as an emotional support animal when the cat’s health is stable.
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