Cat Helps Man Understand the Gift of Seeing Differently
Johnny was a scared, shy cat. Ethan is legally blind and was beginning a new career. As Johnny trusted and bonded with Ethan, he led Ethan to trust in himself.
Ethan + Johnny Bravo
Ethan, who is legally blind, moved to New York to start his career. His search led him to Meow Parlour, where his strong senses of empathy and intuition gave him a knack for placing cats with their perfect families—including connecting with his own feline family member, Johnny Bravo.
"I never believed that my vision should hold me back, but most people didn’t embrace that same sentiment. However, it was a shy cat who would help me realize that there’s a place for me. There’s certainly a place for Johnny—at my home. It took him two months to fully open up, to love my family, and to get used to eating four meals a day."
I graduated college and moved to New York City for a career in marketing. It turns out, there aren’t a lot of marketing jobs for people with achromatopsia: I’m legally blind, colorblind, and sensitive to light. I love cats and always wanted a job communicating with people, so a friend asked me if I ever considered working at a cat café. So I applied for a job at Meow Parlour.
Johnny arrived around the same time I started. He was terrified and he had the right to be. He was found nearly bald, covered in ringworm, and picking through trash and here he was, in a new place with a lot of cats and people. Even if I told him things will be better, he wouldn’t understand. All anyone could do was move slowly and treat him kindly so that maybe he would comprehend that we were good people.
Strong eye contact would never make it onto my list of interpersonal skills and Johnny probably liked that. He only came out when I was working and during the quietest moments of the day, he would slide onto my lap—only to scurry off at the slightest sound or movement.
I never believed that my vision should hold me back, but most people didn’t embrace that same sentiment. However, it was a shy cat who would help me realize that there’s a place for me. There’s certainly a place for Johnny—at my home. It took him two months to fully open up, to love my family, and to get used to eating four meals a day.
We had to be patient with him and let him grow at his own pace. In return, he made me more comfortable and confident in my ability to help cats. People often rely on their vision to communicate and I get to see only a sliver of that, so I have learned to watch body language, listen closely, and use a lot of encouragement when engaging with others. This works with cats and people, so I’ve gotten to be good at reading others quickly. I use this to match people to cats like Johnny. When I listen to their stories, I can tell who will be worthy of my favorite type of cats—the kind that are like slow blooming flowers. I’ll bring them to the back to introduce them to our quietest cats. I’ll tell them about Johnny and how I know this cat is just like him. Even if I never get to see these cats when they have blossomed, their adopters email me to tell me I was right.
Since adopting Johnny, I have trained nearly a dozen adoption counselors. I have helped place a hundred cats, sent emails, and met with adopters on my days off to help transition new adoptions. The world got me wrong. I can see a lot of things. Johnny just helped me realize that I can help others because I see things differently.
Each year, Petco Love Stories invites adopters to share how their pets have changed their lives to give the organizations that they’ve adopted from the chance to receive grant awards. This story by Ethan won Meow Parlour in New York, New York a 2021 Love Stories award.