When longtime Santa Clarita resident Kat Connolly adopted a blind kitten, she never expected he would teach her such important life lessons about what it means to embrace your differences.
PJ has a condition called microphthalmia, a birth defect in which his eyes did not develop fully, and though there wasn’t anything wrong with the kitten, other than that he was blind, a vet urged her to put him down.
“And I just said, ‘Well, then I’ll take him home, and he’ll have as good of a life as he can have with me,” Connolly said.
Years later, when Connolly decided to write a children’s book about her kitten, she never expected to be recognized for it.
Now, “The Adventures of PJ” has been named among the best in family-friendly media, products and services and has received a Gold Mom’s Choice Award, the highest award given.
“I am so humbled and honored to receive this award for ‘The Adventures of PJ,’” Connolly said. “Born blind, PJ continues to teach me to look past limitations and labels. I hope that children and adults everywhere can enjoy my book and be inspired by this true story.”
Not knowing what to expect when bringing her new kitten home, Connolly said she treated PJ with “kid gloves,” but she quickly learned that PJ was an incredible force of nature who wouldn’t let anything stop him, not even missing his sight.
“He is the most confident cat I have ever seen,” Connolly added. “He’s just got such a zest for life and gives it 100%.”
Even so, the inspiration for the book didn’t come to Connolly until she watched PJ catch a fly.
“Mischka, my older cat, loves playing with flies,” she said. “She was watching for the fly, and she kept losing it, but PJ on the other hand was only 4 months old, and he never lost it because he was listening for it.
“He chased it, and then all of a sudden, he jumped up, midair, and caught the fly,” Connolly added. “I still have this image of this little 4-month-old kitten surprising me that he was a better hunter than the cat that I had who could see.”
PJ’s story turns gold
In 2015, Connolly finally sat down to write, using little stories, like the fly, that were based on true events to construct PJ’s story, where he plays the hero to his brother and sister, who don’t discover he’s blind until the end.
The book was published in November 2019 and before Connolly could kick off any promotion at schools or libraries, the COVID-19 pandemic halted things. “I was really hoping to donate the book to libraries, do library readings, get it into schools or go to bookstores for kids’ hour … But then the quarantine hit and everything changed.”
When Connolly heard about the Mom’s Choice Awards in February, she thought, “Why not?”
“It really meant a lot to me because, as a first-time author, I didn’t really know if anybody would like the book other than me and my friends,” she added, laughing, “so getting that feedback was great. … I didn’t even know that people gave awards for books to be honest as a first-time writer.”
Even so, it remains the message of her book that’s important to Connolly, which she hopes to share with others.
“It’s really a touching book for kids because it teaches them you don’t have any limitations, the limitations are only in our mind, and PJ’s been proof of that for me,” she added. “Hopefully, it can help children embrace their differences, build self-confidence, teach them tolerance and that each of us is special in our own way.”
Connolly also hopes the book raises awareness that disabled pets can live happy and joyous lives, a message that translates to brothers, sisters, moms and dads, as well.
“I also hope the book ultimately will also have others consider adopting a blind pet or at least donating to a blind pet rescue,” she added. “Blind pets shouldn’t be thrown away. They can have amazing lives and bring just as much joy as any pet.”
For more information, visit adventuresofPJ.com.