Changing Planet

“Homer was the World’s Cat”—a Commemorative Tribute to the Blind ‘Wonder Cat’

Black Cat (Nat Geo)

This afternoon, I read about the passing of Homer, the feline inspiration for the 2009 international bestseller Homer’s Odyssey.  I was touched by the author’s—Gwen Cooper’s— commemorative tribute to the blind and black cat published online in Huffington Post.

In the obituary, Gwen recounted her life with Homer, her companion and confidant for nearly two decades. The feline phenomenon succumbed to a prolonged illness at the age of 16 in New York.

I’ve never read Homer’s Odyssey, but I marvel at the remarkable legacy this one imperfect cat has left behind. Homer’s story has indirectly saved the lives of other blind cats that would otherwise have been euthanized, as have so many unwanted black cats. Homer has also been an inspiration to disabled people.

The book itself, according to Gwen, was rejected by 12 publishers before it became a bestseller and before being translated into 15 languages—another testament to persistence and perseverance.

But today was intended to be a celebration of Homer’s life and the life of the imperfect and their heroic courage. In our own ways, we are all imperfect, but we are most inspired by the trials and tribulations of the most disadvantaged.  They give us courage and they give us hope.

“From Homer I’d learned that even the most “imperfect” of creatures is capable of loving with a deep and perfect love. All they need is someone to give them a chance,” Gwen said in her tribute.

I was also touched because following my post last week—drawing attention to Black Cat Appreciation Day—I learned that there are a heck of a lot of compassionate people out there who root for the underdog and this black and blind cat was certainly one of them.

Black cats have had it rough, no doubt, and blind cats have it even more difficult. Suffice it to say, Homer had it particularly rough.  He was blind, and before being discovered by Gwen, he was living at a shelter as an abandoned three week-old kitten.

Gwen shared that although Homer was just one cat, he and his story have impacted the lives of many other cats.  Shelter’s are now less inclined to euthanize blind cats, and hopefully more people will consider rescuing a black cat, sighted or not, after last week’s Black Cat Appreciation Day.

I admit that even though I’m an animal lover and have been dedicated to the welfare and conservation of wildlife, including wild felids, I tend to keep my distance from domestic cats because I’m quite allergic to their dander.  Somehow my immune system may no longer perceive cat dander as a danger because last week while visiting Los Angele’s big cat sanctuary Wildlife Waystation, I encountered a large domestic black cat owned by the sanctuary’s founding director Martine Colette.  The cat jumped in to my lap, clearly unaware of my allergies, but very receptive to being scratched.  I thought I would immediately start sneezing, but I had no adverse reaction. Perhaps I received some divine intervention instead via a black cat?

According to Gwen, Homer actually died last week. She said he was at home and she held him in her arms as he expired.


With training in wildlife ecology, conservation medicine and comparative psychology, Dr. Schaul's contributions to Nat Geo Voices have covered a range of environmental and social topics. He draws particular attention to the plight of imperiled species highlighting issues at the juncture or nexus of sorta situ wildlife conservation and applied animal welfare. Sorta situ conservation practices are comprised of scientific management and stewardship of animal populations ex situ (in captivity / 'in human care') and in situ (free-ranging / 'in nature'). He also has a background in behavior management and training of companion animals and captive wildlife, as well as conservation marketing and digital publicity. Jordan has shared interviews with colleagues and public figures, as well as editorial news content. In addition, he has posted narratives describing his own work, which include the following examples: • Restoration of wood bison to the Interior of Alaska while (While Animal Curator at Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and courtesy professor at the University of Alaska) • Rehabilitation of orphaned sloth bears exploited for tourists in South Asia (While executive consultant 'in-residence' at the Agra Bear Rescue Center managed by Wildlife SOS) • Censusing small wild cat (e.g. ocelot and margay) populations in the montane cloud forests of Costa Rica for popular publications with 'The Cat Whisperer' Mieshelle Nagelschneider • Evaluating the impact of ecotourism on marine mammal population stability and welfare off the coast of Mexico's Sea of Cortez (With Boston University's marine science program) Jordan was a director on boards of non-profit wildlife conservation organizations serving nations in Africa, North and South America and Southeast Asia. He is also a consultant to a human-wildlife conflict mitigation organization in the Pacific Northwest. Following animal curatorships in Alaska and California, he served as a charter board member of a zoo advocacy and outreach organization and later as its executive director. Jordan was a member of the Communication and Education Commission of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (CEC-IUCN) and the Bear Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (BSG-SSC-IUCN). He has served on the advisory council of the National Wildlife Humane Society and in service to the Bear Taxon Advisory Group of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA Bear TAG). In addition he was an ex officio member of council of the International Association for Bear Research and Management. Contact Email:
  • Claudia Bechtol

    My daughter used to be allergic to cats…over the years,having cats in our household must have made her immune because all is fine now. Also there is a new product coming out for people who are allergic to cats..

  • Arthur D. Surdam

    Thank you for your article and the recognition of Homer and Black cats everywhere. I myself have a rescued black cat and he is a great pleasure to our household.
    Living in Brooklyn, we see a great many feral and stray cats who struggle to survive on the streets and in the back yards throughout the Bay Ridge area. Our family has rescued 4 of these loving pets.
    Having read both of Gwen Coopers books I can highly reccomend them as excellent additions to any home library. The reader will certainly come away with a heightened awareness of the need for animal compassion.
    Again, Thank You for your artical and in closing I urge your readers to consider black cat adoption.

  • kathryn

    Homer and his Mom were an inspiration to many. I was so moved to read the stories on Facebook of numerous families who adopted blind cats specifically because they learned about Homer. It’s amazing what Homer and his Mom accomplished.

  • Agnes Newcomer

    I enjoyed your tribute to Gwen Cooper’s Homer. You really should read her book about Homer. Someone sent me a link to Homer’s FB page, and it was quite a while before I even knew there was the book. The best seller is much more than a “just a kitty story”.
    I am also going to read your article about black cats. Many people don’t know that black cats actually give good luck to those who give them kindness and love. Ask anyone who loves one.

  • Connie Mar

    My husband and I both have cat allergies, however we are not allergic to black cats. Can bury our faces in their fur and kiss them without sneezing, getting swollen eyes. White, orange, or Siamese cats are a different story.

    I’m guessing you could adopt a couple black kitties and be just fine!

  • Lee Anne Jackson-Stoddard

    That was a beautiful tribute not only to Homer but black cats as well. Kudos on your new positive experience with cat dander. Thank you Jordan for helping enlighten more people on the less fortunate amoung us and the need for more rescues of these needy ones.

  • Tracey Shook

    Have you been tested for allergies lately? I am most allergic to dust mites. I used to be allergic to cats, but the last time I was tested it turned out I was allergic to dogs. It may very well be that your allergies have changed. You can always get allergy shots.


  • Tony Reed

    I missed your post on Black Cat Appreciation Day, but must tell you… I’ve learned the ridiculously silly fear and dislike of black cats is more common than one might imagine.

    Not only are they typically the first to be euthanized at shelters, but people claim they are not “cute” enough and many people have what’s been labeled as religious or cultural issues. My own label is “complete stupidity.”

    I have two cats… one of which I walk every day with a harness and leash… and I’ve had a number of people give her and me the dirtiest looks. Some are bolder; one woman once asked me if I worry about having a black cat and implied my cat was a source of evil. These are GROWN adults having these child-like fears … which ultimately cause the euthanasia of innocent animals who we as a species have domesticated. Just disturbing.

    I have two

  • Marcella Everett

    We have a black, Zeus. He’s not the first black cat we’ve ever had. I even have a calendar of just black cats. I love cats, black, white, tortie (have one) or tabby (have an orange one). And Homer’s story is just so inspiring.

  • Juliane

    I believe that black cats (at least some of them) do not trigger allergies as much as some other cats. I know that people who are allergic to cats have been able to be around my short hair black cat without triggering their allergies or at least being able to be around the cat longer before the allergies kicked in. Just another thing that makes black cats the perfect pet (I’m Mummy to 2 rescued black cats and thing they are the best breed around).

  • chris

    I grew up with a mostly black cat and the first and second cats I owned as an adult was black . My daughter had a black short haired kitten that had the be euthanized. He was a sweetheart.
    We currently have 2 black toms. While I have loved all my cats and really miss my orangies, the black toms have had a special place in my heart.

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