Hey guys! We are excited to be participating in the 2011 Pet ‘Net event which takes place November 16th! This year’s event revisits the topic of the first Pet ‘Net held 4 years ago: pet adoption. How perfect is that for ILRA? Before we get on with our topic, however, I’d like to talk a little more about Pet Net. It is put on by the wonderful people at Petside and this year they are determined to use it to make a difference in the lives of animals. To add some fun for the bloggers and encourage great articles, there will be a voting component this year where the blog chosen as the best will win a $500 donation to the shelter of their choice! How great is that? And Petside has partnered with the Iams Bags 4 Bowls Initiative so everyone can get involved with social media to help feed animals in need! There are two components to this: Facebook and twitter.
On twitter, each tweet with Pet ‘Net hash tag (#IHeartShelterPets) and @Iams will yield 25 meals to local shelters. This includes original tweets as well as RTs! Be sure to have BOTH in your tweet!
On Facebook, every personal adoption story and photo posted onto Petside’s wall will show your support for your local shelters and give you the chance to be featured on Petfinder.com as a Happy Tail story!. Every comment or “like” on each post will yield an ADDITIONAL donation of one bowl of food to local shelters and each “like” of the entire page results in a donation of 25 bowls!! So be sure to not only post your story but encourage all your friends to like all the posts. This has the potential to be HUGE!
Adopting Special Needs Cats
Now onto our topic, and one that is near and dear to our hearts: Adopting Special Needs Cats! As many of you know, we are very personally involved in rescuing animals. Over the last few years, we have been involved in Trap-Neuter-Return, helped maintain feral colonies, fostered dogs, saved a cat who had been hit and left to die on the side of the road, caught and cared for cats from the gutter outside our home, raised 2 kittens from a feral mom and successfully moved a feral cat from one location to another. We live and breathe rescue. You would think all of that would be the hard part but it’s not. To us, the hardest part is adopting out those animals, most specifically, the cats. Dogs are easy but as any shelter or rescue will tell you, cats are just hard to adopt out. And I don’t know the reason. Maybe there are less cat people than dog people out there. But more specifically for us, we tend to end up with what could be considered “special needs” kitties. And I would like to take away some of the stigma from them so that wonderful cats like ours can find their loving forever homes faster.
So what are special needs cats? They could have a variety of issues. Some are certainly harder to care for than others but some problems that our fosters have don’t really affect them at all and yet it still seems to scare people off. For instance, we have a habit of being found by cats that are FIV+. FIV, like HIV, means that the cat has a potentially lowered immune system. Like HIV, this status carries a very scary connotation. But if people would do a bit of research, they would quickly find that this is not something that should deter you from adopting a cat. Believe me, when we had our first foster diagnosed with it, we were worried. Would she be sick all the time? Would she make our own cats sick? One vet, going on old, now discounted thinking, even told us that we should put our FIV cats down. Then we came across an article from Best Friends Animal Sanctuary that set us at ease. Cats with FIV can live perfectly normal lives. There are cats that are 20 years old with it! While it can be spread to other cats, it is only through deep puncture wounds or sexual contact. That means that there are people out there that have both FIV positive and negative cats living together with no problems. If the cats are properly socialized, they can love and cuddle with one another and share food bowls and litter boxes as much as they want and the negative cat will be perfectly safe! And you know what? They aren’t going to be sick all the time!
Our first FIV+ foster, Storm, was never sick the entire year we had her and since her adoption, has continued to thrive without consequence. O’Malley, the cat that we rescued from the side of the road, was also diagnosed with FIV. Despite that, he recovered from his wounds and underwent major surgery with no ill effects from his FIV status! FIV is not something to run and hide from. It’s merely something to be aware of. What it really comes down to is that you will need to be certain that your FIV+ cat is kept up to date on all their vaccinations, that you lower their risk of exposure by making them indoor-only cats and that if they do become sick, you take them to the vet immediately because they may not be able to fight off their illness as easily as a negative cat. Now that’s not so daunting anymore, is it?
Urinary Blockages or Crystals
Another special need that we have run across in our cat family is cats with a history of urinary blockage or crystals in the urine. We rescued Jacob from the gutter outside our house. He was perfectly healthy until one day we found him straining to urinate. After a few hours of him crying, we knew he had to be rushed to the vet right away. Because a blockage can kill a cat in mere hours, he had to have a catheter put in immediately, had to have an IV drip and be put on antibiotics. Granted, the emergency vet cost was enormous and we still have not recovered from it. BUT, just because a cat has had a blockage in the past is NOT a reason to skip over them when looking to adopt a cat. For one, there is no way of telling which cats will develop blockages. Like I said, Jacob was perfect until his happened. So avoiding one with a known history of a blockage is no guarantee that you won’t have to deal with one. Knowing a cat has had it can once again, just make you a more informed owner. To keep Jacob from developing one again, he is on a special diet food. There are both dry and canned versions and a few different brands that are specially formulated for cats with this issue. They are of the right acidity that they keep new crystals from forming. While a special diet might seem daunting, we feed Jacob the more expensive wet food every day and it still costs less than $25 a month. And Jacob hasn’t had a single problem since being on his prescription diet. Now that’s not so daunting, is it?
One last special case I’d like to discuss is kittens from feral mothers. While this isn’t something you might consider a special need, it seems to be something that people are reluctant to take on. Here’s the thing – there is a definite difference between stray and feral cats. Feral cats are wild and yes, pretty much un-tameable. You can keep a feral cat for years and it may never calm down and come to like you. Feral cats are happiest left outside in managed colonies. When we caught Matilda, we were hoping that she would tame. But she was miserable inside so eventually we released her at our new place (carefully following relocation procedures so she would recognize this as her new home). Her two kittens, Mel and Maggie Mae, are a different story. Granted, we didn’t catch them until they were already close to 8 weeks old. That was definitely pushing the cusp – it is best to get the kittens as young as possible so they don’t learn to be afraid of humans from their mom. Don’t get me wrong, it has been a struggle. It has taken us months of work to get the kittens to where they are now. But it has been completely worth it! Maggie Mae is such a little cuddle bug who loves to sit in your lap and just purr away. Mel, while a wild child, has also taken to liking his chin scratched and ears rubbed. They are absolutely gorgeous cats that anyone would be lucky to have in their family. So should a possible few months of patience stop you from adopting a wonderful cat? I think we all know the answer to that question!
Other Special Needs
Now of course there are conditions that are more work than these examples. Diabetic cats would need shots every day. Cats with heart problems like our Merlin require pills every day. Cats with amputations or blindess or any other special need will, yes, need special attention. But I can tell you story after story of how people cope with these problems not only to the point of the animals surviving, but truly thriving. Animals with special needs rely on you to care for them more than those without them. But I can promise you that they know it and they are grateful. You can’t help but develop a special bond with an animal that you have to put a little bit of extra effort into. Don’t you think that extra closeness, that extra time spent together, will be more than worth it in the end? The next time you come across a special needs cat, I hope you will take the time to learn about their needs and find a special place for them in your heart and home.
Adopting & Donating
NOTE: For anyone living in or near Austin, TX, O’Malley, Mel and Maggie Mae are still available for adoption. They are all amazing cats and deserve to find their very own forever homes. You can learn more about O’Malley’s story in his video below. If you could possibly donate towards his care, that would be amazing as well and can be done at his ChipIn. We are able to do the physical rescue and rehabilition but without financial support, we won’t be able to help as many animals in need. Thank you!