Pet ‘Net 2011: Adopting Special Needs Cats

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.

Twitter Campaign

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!

Facebook Campaign

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 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.

FIV+ Cats

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?

“Feral” Kittens

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!

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13 Responses to “Pet ‘Net 2011: Adopting Special Needs Cats”

  1. Thank you for this special post about Adopting Special Needs Pets. I am a special needs cat too. I am living with feline diabetes that developed after a round of medication that caused pancreatitis. I am doing fine now that we have our daily routine and I am back to my mischievous self. I hope others will consider adopting a special needs pet. Thank you for all the work you do caring for animals. xoxoxo

    • Ashley says:

      Hi Gracey! I’m so glad you are doing well! One of our cats had a bout with pancreatitis a year ago but luckily had no long-term effects. Thank you for sharing your story so others know that they can get a great special needs cat like you without it overwhelming them!

  2. Maxwell: *raises paw* as a Special Needs kitteh myself (I was completely deaf when Momma & Papa adopted me – they just didn’t know it!) I Officially Endorse this post and give it Two Paws UP!!

    Maxwell’s Mom: Maxie has become my very special baby and I can’t imagine life without him. I have a special fondness for deaf cats now and when next adopting, will go out of my way to find another. I had no idea how incredibly rewarding it is to have a family member like this!

    • Ashley says:

      Thank you Maxwell! We had a deaf ferret for a long time and it never affected him either. Thanks for your endorsement! It means a lot to us!

      Mom: I’m so happy for you that he’s become such a special boy to you and thank you so much for purposefully seeking out a deaf cat in the future! Kudos!

  3. Edie says:

    People always fear what they don’t know. Thanks for explaining these issues in such clear detail — and assuaging the fears of many potential adopters. The fact is, you never know what your pets — shelter or otherwise — are going to get. My dog got diabetes — a hereditary, unpreventable condition in dogs — a few years after I adopted him. I was terrified, but now giving him shots is just a routine and he’s doing great.

    • Ashley says:

      Edie, another great example! It’s true – you never know what your pet is going to develop down the road. In some ways, it’s almost easier to know what you are getting into from the get-go. That way you aren’t blindsided! If people do the proper research before adopting a special needs animal, then it really shouldn’t be a scary thing. They’ll know what to do from the very beginning, making it just part of the routine.

  4. Sharon says:

    Love your writing Ashley and though we may be dog lovers, we love all animals. Senior dogs and special needs pets are just as loving and fun to be around as any person in our book :0) Thanks for writing this!

    xo – Sharon and Cleo

    • Ashley says:

      Thank you Sharon & Cleo! We love you guys and think it’s wonderful what you’re doing to help take away stigma from older pets. How silly is it that people consider that a special need? Keep up the great work, guys!

  5. Petside says:

    Hey guys! What a beautiful post! Truly, special needs animals are as loving and fun to be around as any other pet (or person for that matter!) And absolutely nothing could compare to the feeling of knowing how much good you’ve done for this animal, and how grateful they are to you and how much they will love you unconditionally.

    Truly, thanks for sharing this wonderful post with our Pet ‘Net 2011 event! 🙂


    • Ashley says:

      Thank you for letting us participate! It’s seems like a huge success and I hope we’ve all made a difference for animals!

  6. Catherine Heckel says:

    I have two rescue cats. Maggie walked into our lives one day when we left the apartment door open to get some air. Well, we got Maggie too. Then, to keep Maggie company (and moving) we adopted Chloe (shelter name Prissy, she was anything but) from our local shelter. Maggie and Chloe have lots of toys and for Xmas, they donate their old ones to the animal shelter.
    Maggie is special needs because she has breathing problems. So far no meds needed but we watch her diet and exercise.
    Hey, Youse all, adopt a special needs cat. Well worth the love return.

    • Ashley says:

      Catherine, thank you for adopting both Maggie & Chloe and for endorsing special needs pets! It’s so sweet of them to donate their toys at Christmas too! I hope Maggie stays well without meds but know you’ll do anything she needs!

  7. JonO says:

    As the proud servant of 2 blind kitties, another who had to have her stomach sewn back to the body cavity after being thrown from a car, a diabetic, and a cat who has a stainless steel bone replacing the one that was crushed by a horse (along with 4 lookalikes who either moved in with me or were euthanized), I can guarantee you that the love that these cats show makes up for any extra time that must be taken with their care.

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