None of Kafka the cat’s nine lives have been especially easy, but her owners are glad she still has a few lives left.
Kafka, who lives in Eastcott in England with owners James Dickenson and Jo Brydon, was born with cerebellar hypoplasia, which is a rare condition. The part of the brain which controls balance, coordination and fine motor skills doesn’t develop properly and causes involuntarily twitching of the head and body.
Cerebellar hypoplasia often results when a pregnant cat infected with the feline panleukopenia virus passes the infection to her offspring.
To add to her woes, Kafka is deaf too, although it’s not known if her hearing problems are linked to her condition.
The couple, who adopted Kafka when she was three months old, communicate with her using sign language, teaching her tricks and calling her with signs to let her know it’s time to eat.
“Kafka has always been a very happy, loving and personable cat, right from when she was born,” James says. “She’s always enjoyed jumping and bouncing about everywhere and she really loves being outdoors with us.”
“Her understanding of sign language has come in leaps and bounds since she was little and she often treats us to some lovely tricks.
“Kafka also knows the sign for food and comes running when you call her.”
The one-year-old feline was making steady progress until earlier this year when her owners noticed a mistiness in her eyes and she was no longer reacting to their signs.
“The mistiness seemed to be compromising her ability to follow our sign language,” James recalls.
A trip to the vet brought another blow when they were told Kafka appeared to have cataracts in both her eyes.
In an attempt to save her eyesight, James and Jo started a GoFundMe page and a month later, after receiving enough donations, Kafka underwent surgery.
Jo and James were thrilled. “There is such a big difference to Kafka’s wellbeing ever since she’s had the surgery,” James said, adding that Kafka was unimpressed by wearing a protective cone around her head when she came home.
“She was yowling to start, but is starting to settle down a bit better,” read a caption to Kafka’s Instagram page which the couple use to document her journey.
“After a few days of getting used to having a cone around her neck we ventured outside and it was such a joy to see her chasing after the ants again and running up to people who were far away to say hello.”
Talk about a purrfectly happy ending.