Oskar The Blind Cat In Memoriam by Layla Morgan Wilde
It’s with profound sadness to share a personal tribute to one-and-only Oskar the blind cat. May he rest in peace and may his memory be a blessing. To Oskar’s cat dad Mick, his cat mom Bethany, his human sisters Faye and Fern and to Oskar’s feline sidekick and best bro Klaus, we mourn with you.
I’d been planning to post a fun and breezy article about my meeting with Oskar The Blind Cat weeks ago but life got extra busy and now it’s too late. I will share a few memories with a gentle reminder to not take anything for granted. Carpe diem.
The online cat community burst into collective tears and ripples of shock yesterday when the news broke. Oskar, a seemingly healthy tabby born in 2011 died suddenly of an apparent heart attack in his home surrounded by his family in Seattle. A beloved cat with a large following, Oskar was born blind with the genetic condition microphthalmia. His eyes never fully developed but he remained blissfully unaffected. He navigated his world as if sighted with a sunny happy-go-lucky vibe that inspired love and laughter to fans of all ages. Advocating for differently-abled pets and kids, creative muse for many award-winning children’s books (including in braille), and zany videos have delighted and inspired millions.
Cat lovers all over the world have the biggest hearts. We laugh, coo and aw over over millions of cat photos and videos of cats famous or not. The joy we feel is documented to relieve stress. The madness of the world subsides for a few moments and we understand that time spend with cats is never wasted. We feel many popular cats like Oskar to be one of the family and delight in their day-to-day adventures. When illness strikes, we worry and send purrs galore. When the unthinkable happens like an unexpected death we mourn them as we would our own, even if we’ve never met.
I’d met Mick and Bethany Szydlowski a few times over the years but didn’t meet Oskar in person until a couple months ago. Mick and Oskar were in New York for an appearance and I wanted to hand deliver a copy of Black Cats Tell All: True Tales And Inspiring Images. There is a blurb on the back cover by Oskar.
Mick has always been kind and generous. He embodies what the Oskar and Klaus brand is all about: making a difference in the lives of pets and those who love them. Their message is about not judging a book by its cover, whether someone is visually or invisibly different. Oskar demonstrated that disabled pets can and do live happy lives.
On a gloomy Sunday evening in late November I arrived at the hotel, frankly not expecting more than a quick hello. I knew Mick would be exhausted from a long day beginning with a TV appearance with Oskar early that morning and a meet and greet at PetCon. My mother had died recently and this was my first outing to the city from the suburbs and feeling crappy. The moment I saw Oskar, I was transported into another world. As someone who has worked professionally with cats for 20 years, I instantly recognized the magic and promptly forgot he was blind and my crappy mood.
All cats are special but a few exist in their own stratosphere. Oskar was one out of this world cat.
I followed his cues and observed him at first from a chair as he played with a catnip mouse I’d brought. He’d had a long day of meet and greets and didn’t want to over stimulate him. Oskar used his tail, ears and whiskers with the finesse of a maestro. He pounced and deftly played hunter supreme while Mick and I chatted. There is always so much catch up to do and before you could say meow, two hours had flown by. I marveled at how soft Oskar’s spotted tabby coat was and waited some time before he decided to bestow a kiss on me. Bliss.
I’ve met many famous cats and Oskar was by far the most relaxed, self-contained and sovereign. Maybe it was because was earthy Taurus born in the heartland of Nebraska. Who knows but whether playing, jumping on and off the hotel bed, nibbling some food, visiting the travel-sized litter box in the bathroom all was as natural as if he were at home. He’d mastered the art of being fully present 24/7, comfortable in his fur and utterly at home anywhere. It’s a rare gift for any species.
Out of respect for Oskar and Mick I did not spend more a minute taking a few shots in low light and no flash. No selfies. No Facebook or Instagram live stories. For me the joy was being in the moment simply hanging out. We made plans to see one another on their next trip this spring but fate had other plans.
Mick’s friend Adam, the photographer known for his stunning photography and Bengal cat @professorpouncey hung out with us a while later. He snapped a couple shots of me and Oskar. I doubt either of us thought they would be some of the last shots not taken by Mick. We’d discussed Oskar’s health earlier. His energy seemed fine but my intuition flashed on something dark but I waved it away. There are times when being an empath is an welcome gift and safer to shut down.
Having experienced both many times, it’s hard to say whether a gradual decline is easier to grieve than a sudden death. I will say Oskar has left a big heart-shaped hole that only love will fill. There is no better way to honor and heal loss than by taking action and expressing emotion. Feel your feelings. Journal or use a coloring book. Leave a comment or share this post. Light a candle in Oskar’s memory, volunteer or donate to your favorite animal cause or shelter, purchase books or merchandise that gives back to causes like the shop from Oskar and Klaus.
Oskar won the hearts of all that met him. Some hearts they say are too big to stay long on this planet. I’d like to think Oskar has another mission and a further purpose yet untold. For now, farewell dear Oskar, until we meet again. You are forever loved. I end with a few words of wisdom from Rumi.
“…Walk with grief like a good friend. Listen to what he says. Sometimes the cold and dark of a cave give the opening we most want.” “Be concentrated and leonine in the hunt for what is your true nourishment. Don’t be distracted by blandishment-noises, of any sort.”