Cats come in all variety of color, pattern, and coat type. Some are short, others are leggy; some are sleek, others still are Rubenesque. The point I'm making here is that our darling furry friends come in all types, and while some of those variations are simply aesthetic, others have more to do with function. The needs of a special needs cat is as varied and unique as coat patterns and body types. In this article, we discuss what makes these cats so marvelous, and why you might want to adopt one.
What is a Special Needs Cat?
Special needs cats are simply felines that require a little more attention or a specific type of care. Their needs typically fall into one of two categories: physical or behavioral. Let's look into each category a little more in-depth.
Special needs felines that fit into this category are usually no different than any other cat; however, they may have some bodily limitations or physical health issues that require attention. For example, these cats may have vision or hearing problems; they may have issues with mobility, either due to illness or missing appendages; or they may be dealing with a chronic illness that call for regular vet visits or administration of medications.
Elderly cats are also sometimes grouped into this category. As our felines age, their physical conditions can change, thus making them more prone to health problems or injuries. As a result, they often need special care from a loving, patient human companion.
Kitties in this category have usually had a rough life, and need a little help getting back on track – or may simply need a family that is understanding of their condition. For “normal” cats, behavioral issues can be corrected with some time and training. Behavioral issues from a special needs feline, however, are a little different. For instance, cats can suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder, and those who do can sometimes be destructive – often sucking or gnawing on plastic or linens. Other conditions, such as senility (or FDS) and chronic anxiety, can cause litter box issues. Whatever the cause, it may not be possible to simply train the behaviors away, and instead, these cats need families that understand and are willing to learn how to work with their special kitty.
Why Adopt a Special Needs Cat?
With everything mentioned above, you may be wondering why you should adopt a special needs cat. The reason is pretty simple: these cats, in all of the ways that matter, are every bit as spectacular as their “normal” counterparts. Certainly, they will require a bit more time and attention, but they are just as deserving of a loving home as any other feline. Let's take a moment and look into some compelling reasons why adopting a special kitty might be right for you.
Cats Are Adaptable
Say that you're looking to adopt and happen across a kitty who is absolutely perfect for your home... he has the right temperament, the right energy level, and he's just freakin' adorable! But there's one catch... he's missing an eye. You might be left wondering: will he be able to function in his day-to-day life? Will that impediment mean he'll have a hard time getting accustomed to a new environment? Will he be easily startled or especially shy? You might be surprised to find that, despite having what some might consider a disability, your fabulous little one-eyed feline is shockingly adaptable. Will he need a little extra time to adjust? Maybe. But likely not much more than any other new adoptee.
This, of course, is just an example – and one of the simpler examples, at that. What if your special needs kitty is living with a more complicated issue? It's important to remember that your chosen rescue organization will likely have already worked with your special needs cat. He will almost certainly have some training under his belt, have his schedule in place, and his medications – if any – all sorted out. If this is the case, the only changes he will need to make are the normal things – like getting used to your home and family – and the only one who will need to adapt is you.
You Will Save and Change a Life
You are a caring person, otherwise you wouldn't be sitting here wondering whether or not you should take in a special needs cat. That said, this reason might be persuasive enough all by itself. If you take in that unique feline, you will almost certainly be saving his life. Why? Because cats who require above average levels of care are often overlooked in shelters. What's more, by taking home one of these extra special kitties, you open up a space in a shelter for another cat in need – be it special needs or otherwise.
Additionally, by taking home that cat, you are improving its life significantly. Rescues and shelters work valiantly to care for and protect their furry little wards, but even under the best conditions, looking after a group of needy critters can be complicated. And considering that our special needs friends require even more attention, it can be difficult for these groups to provide the one-on-one time that a permanent home can. By giving your cat a place of his own – or a space that is shared by a significantly smaller group of pets – you are providing him with the individualized care that he needs. The result is a happier, healthier version of that oh-so-special cat!
You Will Increase Your Empathy and Creativity
You likely already have these qualities in abundance, but caring for a special needs cat all but guarantees that you augment them. For example, if you're sharing your home with a blind kitten, you will need to be crafty with his living space, ensuring a balance between the safety he needs, and the fun he craves.
If you are looking after a feline with a medical condition of any sort, you will rapidly get in tune with his requirements. Over time, you will learn how he behaves when he doesn't feel well, you will become familiar with his unique needs, and develop a sense of his body language. All of this means a stronger feeling of empathy that will spill over into other relationships.
Your Special Needs Cat Will Teach You Many Things
In general, living with a cat is an educational experience. However, sharing your home with a special needs cat opens you up to even more learning opportunities – both practical and emotional. Of course, you develop those all important empathetic and creative skills we mentioned earlier, but there's certainly more. For example, watching your furry little friend overcome and even shine despite – or because of – his “disability” can inspire you to surmount any obstacles YOU face. You might also learn what true love really is – after all, spending hours ministering to a helpless little creature has the knock-on effect of nurturing a deep sense of care and selflessness.
On the practical side, looking after a special needs cat can teach you a lot of interesting new skills. For example, if your kitty has special feeding requirements, you will learn a good deal about nutrition. If he needs medication or has physical ailments, you're certain to become a pro at first aid. Finally, if you tend to be a bit on the squeamish side, helping out an ill kitty will knock that right out of you... which I believe falls into both the practical and emotional categories – so win, win!
You Will Experience a Unique Bond
No matter what condition your kitty is in, you will absolutely develop a bond with him. If, however, you are working with a special needs feline, your relationship might be a little different. We touched on this earlier, but there really is something to be said for being responsible for the health of your fuzzy little friend. Of course, you are responsible regardless, but when you are in the position of true caregiver – either by helping them get around, administering medications, or aiding them in common things like litter box use – you cannot help but cultivate a sense of kinship that is unlike any other friendship you will ever have. Your proud moments will be all the prouder, your joys and frustrations will be all the more profound, and the closeness you feel with your companion will be all the stronger because of the simple act of caring.
Things to Consider Before Adopting a Special Needs Cat
We've talked a lot about the wonderful things that come along with adopting a special needs cat, but I would be remiss if I left out the considerations. Before you jump in, remember that these felines DO frequently require more care, time, and effort. If your kitty is dealing with any ailments, you will have to heed the advice of your rescue team or other pet professional, being sure to adhere to any unique feeding habits, medication routines, etc. If your fuzzy little pal has behavioral issues, you must be patient, understanding, and willing to work with him. We have already talked a bit about a lot of these things, but they bear repeating.
It's also important to note that these cats may also require more of your personal resources – that is to say, your vet bills might be a little higher, food expenses can differ, or you might need to make some alterations to your home. These things may or may not actually apply to your unique situation; however, it's a good idea to keep them in mind before you commit.
Adopting a special needs cat can come with many complications – after all, you will often have to put in more time and effort than you otherwise would. But remember, our special little feline friends are every bit as wonderful as other kitties, so they are worth taking a chance on!
It's still cat adoption month! If you're thinking of adopting a cat - special needs or otherwise - give our cat adoption guide a look by clicking here!
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