Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Caring for Kittens Born Blind; They Couldn't Be Returned to the Wild, So Cats Angel Founder Fosters Toby and Tripp

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Caring for Kittens Born Blind; They Couldn't Be Returned to the Wild, So Cats Angel Founder Fosters Toby and Tripp

Article excerpt

Byline: Jim Schoettler

FERNANDINA BEACH | Beth Hackney has spent the last 11 years helping more than 13,000 feral and abandoned kittens and cats in Nassau County as founder of the Cats Angels rescue group.

Given all the different conditions Hackney has found with the animals, she said she had never seen anything like the arrival of two seemingly happy-go-lucky kittens last month.

Toby and Tripp, brown tabby brothers, were born blind with sunken eye sockets that indicated they had little or no eyes due to a rare birth defect.

"I don't know how they survived," said Hackney, 60. "It truly is a miracle."

Hackney's work includes providing traps for people to capture feral cats that are then spayed or neutered and given a health examination at First Coast No More Homeless Pets in Jacksonville and then are normally returned to the person who trapped them.

Hackney and the north Nassau woman who had the brothers trapped along with four other cats agreed that returning the pair to the wild in their condition was a bad idea. So Hackney began fostering Toby and Tripp. She still has the 4-month-old kittens.

After taking them in, Hackney took the animals to No More Homeless Pets for examination by medical director Kelly Farrell.

Farrell said she found them to be suffering from an eye-related birth defect known as anophthalmia, which is a disorder of an animal born with absent or very small eyes.

"There's some remnant of tissue there, but it's not a normal eyeball," Farrell said. "It's really hard to say what happened, but it must have happened really early on."

Farrell said the kittens should be able to enjoy normal lives after adapting to whatever surroundings they eventually wind up in. The key is for owners to keep furniture in the same spot for blind animals, as well as ensuring they can't get outside.

"As far as they're concerned, they don't know they're missing anything. …

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