— When Mick Szydlowski and his wife, Bethany, hopped in the car to pick up an old autoharp they’d seen on Craigslist, they had no idea they’d be coming home with the next YouTube star. But it didn’t take long for the animal-loving couple to decide that Oskar, a blind kitten and the last of the litter belonging to the folks selling the autoharp, was coming back to Omaha with them.
The Szydlowskis already had one cat at home — Klaus, whom they’d adopted as an adult several years earlier — and they were interested in adding a second pet to their family. “Klaus was kind of our baby; I think a lot of people are like that with their pets,” Mick told TODAY.com. “We had tried to introduce him to other cats, including a kitten, in the past, and he was not very receptive to that. So, we really thought that, if we were going to get another pet, it was going to be a dog.”
Fate had other plans, though, and Oskar — who was born without fully-formed eyeballs — quite literally landed in their arms.
Klaus, meet Oskar
After showing the Szydlowskis the instrument they’d come for, the seller asked if they were interested in a blind kitten. The animal’s prospects weren’t great: If nobody adopted him, he would have either stayed on the farm for a bit longer — among a number of migratory birds of prey, not to mention foxes and coyotes — or been taken to an animal shelter. Neither of those options sat well with the Szydlowskis, and once Bethany scooped the kitten up in her arms, the adoption was a done deal.
“My wife was holding him, kind of like a baby, and rocking him back and forth. He was completely relaxed; his little arms were just flopping by his side, and honestly, he looked like he was smiling,” Mick told TODAY.com. “He was born into this world absolutely trusting of everybody and thinking that this was a beautiful and innocent place, and he was just happy to be here.
“At that point, we decided to do everything in our power to create a good environment for him, and take all steps necessary to introduce Klaus to Oskar, even if it had required dividing our house into two sections to allow them to live independently for a long period of time.”
Fortunately, it didn’t take long at all — within five days, Klaus had accepted and begun taking care of his new buddy.
Finding his way
The Szydlowskis researched how to establish a positive environment for the two cats and how to accommodate a blind kitten, and have been surprised at the smooth transition. Although Klaus has some special dietary needs, the couple had never cared for a blind pet before.
“We were prepared to learn as much as possible, and didn’t know if he’d be able to find his litter box or if we’d have to pad the floorboards in case he kept running into walls,” Mick said. But none of those problems materialized.
“What really blew us away is that from day one, his other senses really took over, which you can see in the video of him with his toys,” Mick continued. “Within a matter of a week or so, he knew the layout of our entire house. We could pour his food on one side of the house when he was sound asleep at the other end, and he could wake up, jump off the bed, and perfectly navigate his way to the bowl.”
After all the joy that Oskar has brought into their lives (and, apparently, the rest of the world — the 3-minute video of Oskar and his first toys has had more than 1.7 million views in little over a month), the Szydlowskis hope their story will inspire other people to open their homes to a pet with special needs. The kitten also now has his own Facebook page.
“I will never pass up an animal that needs a little extra care, because spending extra time with an animal you love is really a wonderful thing,” Mick said. “So who can complain about that? To me, it’s nothing but a positive experience.”