Homer 'the Blind Wonder Cat' of Bestselling Memoir Dies in New York at 16
Homer "the Blind Wonder Cat" Cooper, subject of the internationally bestselling memoir died in his New York home last Wednesday of age-related illness. His human companion, author Gwen Cooper, was with him at the time. Homer was sixteen years old.
Homer's Odyssey was published in 2009 and became an instant New York Times bestseller in both hardcover and paperback. At the time of his death, Homer's story had sold over 250,000 copies in the U.S., and had been published in fifteen languages and over two dozen countries and territories around the world. A popular figure on social networking platforms, he had amassed some 35,000 Facebook fans and Twitter followers, and via those platforms had raised nearly $25,000 in relief aid for animals affected by the Egyptian revolution, the Japanese tsunami, and natural disasters in the U.S. The subject of stories on NPR, Reuters, and Tribune Media Services, in publications including USA Today, Ladies Home Journal, Time.com, and the Daily Mail, and on television programs on Animal Planet and NBC, Homer was a familiar figure to animal lovers around the world. His diverse group of acknowledged fans ranged from animal expert Temple Grandin to renowned mentalist The Amazing Kreskin to bestselling authors including Rita Mae Brown, Chris Bohjalian, Barbara Delinsky, Susan Richards, and John R. Bruning.
"Homer and Homer's Odyssey have made a tremendous difference in the lives of blind cats," says Alana Miller, Executive Director of Blind Cat Rescue and Sanctuary in St. Paul, North Carolina. "Because of Homer and his story, many shelters no longer euthanize blind cats immediately upon intake, and we're seeing far higher adoption rates of blind cats. He's helped save countless lives."
Yet Homer, named for the blind Greek poet, had far from an auspicious start in life. Found in 1997 at two weeks of age as a blind, abandoned kitten wandering the streets of Miami, and saved from a congenital eye infection by Dr. Patricia Khuly, he proved a difficult placement once he was deemed healthy enough for adoption. Ads, flyers, phone calls, and soliciting contacts from veterinary school turned up no takers. Khuly finally called Cooper, then in her early twenties and temporarily staying with her two cats in a friend's spare bedroom, having recently broken up with her fiancé. She was skeptical as to whether she was in the position to adopt a third, and one who was "special needs," but agreed to come to the office and meet him. As she would later write, it was love at first sight.
From the kitten nobody wanted, Homer grew into a cat beloved by millions. Cooper has received more than fifteen thousand emails, cards, letters, and cat gifts from readers on every continent of the globe (except Antarctica)-hundreds of whom have told her they were inspired, after reading Homer's story, to adopt a special-needs animal who would otherwise have been overlooked, as Homer nearly was.
"Truly," Cooper says, "he was the world's cat."
An Unlikely Hero
Homer was small even by feline standards, never weighing more than five pounds. Cooper was warned that a blind cat would most likely be timid and have trouble finding his way around or getting to know new places. She ended up moving with Homer six times over the course of his life and says, "You would never have known he was blind to see him finding his way around an unfamiliar room. And he was never shy. I used to call him our official 'greeter,' because he always made a point of being the first one to introduce himself to visitors in our home."