Our pets like our children, grow to understand our personalities, and tend to match them in some instances. We allow and encourage them to develop, all the while directing and nurturing them to the best of our parental ability. But, because our pets are not part of our direct gene pool, fate or karma tends to assist us in finding the pet that needs us most.
Whether you’re an introvert that likes to read all day long, or a sports fanatic who spends most of your time on the trails in the mountain, chances are that you are going to feel connected with a specific pet and this bond is such a privilege.
Meeting up with Bizzy and his mum Lindsay and Cedric, long time best friend, it was quite clear that he was the centre of attention for both individuals who were the perfect fit for a special needs kitty. The amount of research done to understand his condition and the compassion with which they treat him is remarkable. Even though Bizzy’s mum didn’t necessarily sign up for a special needs cat it was a twist of fate that matched Bizzy with the perfect home. Bizzy isn’t just an ordinary house cat. He is the mascot of their new business Bizzibabs Scratch Patch and he is an ambassador for welfare. It is more than admirable when people find the silver lining in a situation where they could have just seen the darkest clouds.
So here is what we found out about our very first feline Cover Model Winner.
Tell us a bit about your family. The humans and animals.
Bizzy has a Mommy and a bestie Daddy Cedric and two canine siblings, AloeVeraPuppy (rescued by and adopted from ROAR for PAWS – 16 months ago) and TheodorePuppy (adopted from Plumpets Animal Shelter – 13 years ago).
Bizzy was not always an only cat. When Bizzy joined our family in 2013, our cat, Beans – a very handsome ginger rescue, welcomed Bizzy into his home. Together they would playfully wrestle and chase each other and cuddle up together, but, sadly, that was only for 18 months. Beans, already a senior cat when Bizzy arrived here, suddenly got ill and was diagnosed with cancer, and shortly after that we had to say our goodbyes to Beans, at the vet. Bizzy had also bonded with his two canine siblings, so we decided to wait a while to see how it went with just the dogs as Bizzy’s friends. All continued to be fine – we decided not to get another cat and, looking back, it was the right thing to do because everything changed the day a neighbour said “You do know he, Bizzy, is blind? … “
Tell us a bit more about Bizzy.
Born: August 2013
Joined our family when he was 16 weeks old. He is a registered Sealpoint Siamese.
For a Siamese, Bizzy is quiet, very quiet. The only time he “says” much is when we talk to him, and we don’t have to shout. We just say it nicely “Off the kitchen counter Bizzy”. He knows he mustn’t be there – but shouts back at us – just one big MEOW – as if he is scolding us, as he reluctantly moves off the counter and onto a kitchen stool.
Perhaps, because he is blind, he is an easy cat and doesn’t get into much mischief, but there was a time when he went through a phase of “bathing his catnip toy mice” wherever he found water. Yes, including the toilet.
Our best story of a naughty Bizzy: The outside kitchen drain was blocked so badly that we had to take off the cover, and we found … 4 very grubby catnip mice. Yes, I screamed when I saw the mice in there. I thought they were real! And then I laughed. Bizzy, blind Bizzy, had found a small opening leading into the drain and over time (how did he know that there was water in there) – he pushed his mice into the drain to bath!
Bizzy has gradually taught us what is best for him in his world and some of it (for Bizzy) is different from what I have read on Google.
- I move furniture around from time to time. Internet articles suggest not to move furniture. For Bizzy – if I move something eg. a chair, I put Bizzy next to it and tap the chair … tap, tap, tap. Bizzy “gets-it” and within a very short time (about an hour) he has it that there is now a chair there.
- Bizzy has a scratch post with a middle bar and two platforms – one at each end. The scratch post is designed to stand vertically. I have the scratch post lying horizontal. Bizzy prefers it that way. He can wrap all four legs around it and swing around it with confidence because he is only just a little off the floor. It is Bizzy’s best thing in the house.
- We gave Bizzy his own room to sleep in at night, until we were certain that Bizzy was sure that he could move around the house at night, with confidence. That way we got sleep and Bizzy settled down. He actually enjoyed his “bedroom” at the time, but if you had to ask him today where the best place to sleep is – I am sure he would say – human bed is now tops!
Bizzy is a blind Siamese, was he born this way? How does he cope with his everyday kitty life?
The thought of Bizzy as blind during his first year never crossed my mind. He climbed curtains, chased after toy rubber balls. He caught bugs and stalked birds, but around his first birthday we noticed that there could be something going on – perhaps something more to his odd way of playing that was not all about “just a clumsy cat.” I suppose we didn’t want to admit it or the time wasn’t right to admit it. At 18 months he was still a busy, happy, young cat, but we noticed that he was more careful. He was not as confident about jumping onto or off of things.
We were also, when Bizzy was not yet 2, staying every second weekend in a small security complex, where front doors still stood open, children still played in the very quiet road outside the houses and it was the norm for a handful of very loved cats to laze around outside. Bizzy loved the set-up. He never roamed far from home exploring and enjoying only the neighbours’ gardens and homes close to us. The neighbours got to know him by name. It was one of those neighbours who knocked us into facing the truth when he said “Your cat is, perhaps, blind?”. A casual comment ticked all the boxes we didn’t want to face – that Bizzy wasn’t clumsy – he was blind or going blind, but why? He wasn’t sick, he had had no trauma, his eyes were crystal clear.
It didn’t add up. For our peace of mind, we booked an appointment at the Eye Care Clinic for cats. It didn’t take long for the Vet to say – “Bizzy is blind, totally blind. Suspected inherited PRA.”
The life Bizzy knew, for his own safety, changed overnight. No more unsupervised outdoor adventures! Bizzy hated been locked inside. He paced up and down, he started biting me and became a curtain climbing champion, ripping curtains and curtain lining on his way up, and once on the top of the curtain rail, he couldn’t climb down so he would howl! What if, I thought, I taught him to accept wearing a harness and took him outside for leash walks. Surely that would calm him. It worked. Slowly he accepted the harness and then gradually understood that a harness with a leash meant a walk outside and his purring would start … and off we would go. Never far from the house and always for only a few minutes, but it was, and still is, enough to keep Bizzy sane. Since the start of his leash and harness walks, he has stopped climbing curtains and biting me. Here I’d like you to remember that Bizzy is blind and just imagine going for a leash walk – blind. This is where he is remarkable. He knows his way to the front gate and out of the front gate. He knows his way up the road and down the road. He knows the boundary walls of the neighbours’ houses that he passes. He knows all of this, because he discovered for himself that if he walks between myself and a wall, his whiskers touching the wall from time to time guides him every step of the way.
We also had to make sure that the back garden is 101% escape-proof – during the day he has sunny spots to sleep. In a little garden, he still catches bugs (and, if opportunity allows, he will catch a bird). He has a “summer house”, a dog kennel – he stole from his dog siblings. He uses the roof to manicure his nails and the inside of his summer house must feel cool and safe for Bizzy because it is his place to go for afternoon naps. Bizzy has adapted very well – so well if you came to visit you would say “Bizzy blind? – no way!”
What is Bizzy’s favourite time of day and why?
Bizzy doesn’t have a favourite time of the day, perhaps because his world is dark, but he does enjoy it if he finds us having TV-time. For Bizzy that is his lap time!
What are Bizzy’s favourite treats?
Anything that smells or tastes like chicken. He also loves hanging around the braai for meat!
What does Bizzy hate?
Birds in his tree! Bizzy has mastered the art of climbing the lower branches of a Ficus in the garden. This is where I keep a small bird feeder for visiting garden birds and his nose knows when the seed container has been filled. He marches up to the tree and launches himself onto the tree and up he goes to hook the feeder with his claws. He throws the feeder and seeds out of his tree but if he goes up “his tree” and the bird feeder is empty – he ignores the feeder completely.
Do you have a favourite charity?
Difficult question, because I have a few favourite animal rescue organisations. We adopted a puppy from ROAR for PAWS 16 months ago, so every time we look at our, now adult, rescue dog, AloeVeraPuppy, we are reminded of the fantastic work ROAR for PAWS have done and are doing to help rural animals in need. Plumpets is also a favourite. I have adopted 2 dogs from Plumpets. My first dog, who is still with me today, was adopted 13 years ago from Plumpets and my second Plumpets dog crossed the Rainbow Bridge 18 months ago. He was with us for 7 years.
You are a PRA Awareness activisit. What message would you like to give our readers who don’t know what this is or what the cause is?
PRA or Progressive Retinal Atrophy is a degenerative disorder of the retina. (The retina, for those rusty with eye anatomy, is the light-gathering part, inside the eye.) PRA leads to the degeneration of the retinal photoreceptors. These photoreceptors are there to absorb the light and to send signals through the optic nerve to the brain. The brain “sees” these signals – vision. The sight of a PRA cat gets worse over time, around 5 years, leading to total blindness. With Bizzy – it was around his 2nd birthday.
I am not a vet, but this is how I understand it: In order for a cat to be affected, the cat needs to have inherited two mutated genes. One from each parent cat. Cats with only one mutated gene will be unaffected, but are carriers, and can transmit the disease. Only cats with known rdAc status should be used for breeding. Carriers should be mated to negative cats; positive cats should only be used with cats who are negative status.
DNA testing for PRA is available for the rdAc mutation. If you suspect your cat is going blind or might be blind – please visit your vet.
There is no treatment for it and it isn’t painful.
About starting PRA AWARENESS
I started an Instagram Account @bizzibabs_pra_awareness, because, in 2013, there wasn’t much on Google about PRA and when I mentioned PRA to family and friends the common response would be “What is PRA?” I decided to share pictures of Bizzy on Instagram to bring about an awareness of PRA in cats. I thought, if I get 10 or 20 people knowing just the words “Progressive Retinal Atrophy” it will be something. From Day 1 on social media – and I was surprised – Bizzy was noticed and loved, and here we are today with close to 10 000 people (worldwide), that we know of, that now know about PRA. Something else that is interesting; Google is now full of PRA information. I wonder if Bizzy has had anything to do with that!!
Tell us a bit about Bizzibabs
Bizzibabs: For Fun – how Bizzibabs come about.
B – for Boy
A – “A”
B – Blind
S – Siamese
And, Bizzy got us through lockdown 2020 at a super speed. One evening, right at the start of lockdown, we decided to do something we had been speaking about doing for a long time, opening a Bizzibabs Online Pet Store. The idea started a few years back. From time to time “furriends” of Bizzy’s would send him gifts to promote their items on his Instagram account. What if, we thought, we contacted some of those Bizzy friends and we told them we were planning an online store; would they trust us with their items in a Bizzibabs Online Store? Well, were we surprised – items for Bizzibabs online store started to come in more and more and the lockdown months have just whizzed by and here we are today with an online store filled with many of Bizzibabs favourite things and as soon as we get to the place where we can give back – we sure will!
There you have it, Bizzy. We are honoured to have you adorn our coveted New Year’s cover.
You are purrrfect in every way and we hope to see much more of you in the months and years to come!