The feisty feline was the subject of a best-selling memoir that inspired millions to live life to the fullest

By Amy Jamieson
Updated September 11, 2013 03:30 PM
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It’s a sad day for fans of Gwen Cooper’s heartwarming New York Times bestseller, Homer’s Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat. The memoir’s central character, Homer the cat, died last month in New York at age 16.

With his adventurous and independent spirit, Homer, who lost his vision to an eye infection as a kitten, proved to millions that it’s possible to live a full life without the gift of sight – and he never let his handicap hinder his everyday activities. Remarkably, the so-called “wonder cat” survived the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York (he was trapped for days in a Manhattan apartment with limited food and water) and even chased an intruder from Cooper’s Miami apartment in 2000.

Cooper met the feline that would change her life in 1997. She had no intention of adding a third cat to her brood – that is, until she laid eyes on this jet-black beauty. He was a cat that nobody wanted, but she was compelled to take him home.

“A kitten who made me want to be a better person within five minutes of meeting him was a kitten who was destined to live an extraordinary life,” Cooper told PEOPLE in 2009. “And I really just wanted to be a part of it.”

Her affectionate, curious companion was loyal up until the day of his death on Aug. 21. Cooper told PEOPLE in an email that Homer died peacefully in his own bed of an age-related illness.

Homer’s legacy lives on in the pages of Cooper’s memoir, which became an international bestseller and was published in 15 languages. To keep his memory alive, she donates 10 percent of royalties from Homer’s Odyssey to organizations that serve abused, abandoned and disabled animals, and she also created the Homer’s Heroes Fund, to give more animals like Homer a chance. Visit his Facebook page for more information.