Special Needs: The Inspiring Lives of Disabled Cats

Cats with disabilities can live long, happy lives, and surprise their owners with their resilience.

By Don Vaughan

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One of the biggest obstacles when living with a deaf cat is communication. People tend to use sounds to let pets know their intent, whether its calling them to play or running the electric can opener at dinnertime. But that's not possible when a cat can't hear.

The alternative is to develop a special sign language.

If its time to feed the cat, you might want to provide some kind of visual signal, such as holding up a can of cat food so the cat can see it, Crowell-Davis said. Of course, your cat must be looking at you when you do this.

Because cats are very sensitive to vibrations, an effective way to get a deaf cats attention is to tap your foot on the floor. Its smart to do this before approaching a deaf cat from behind to avoid startling it.

No matter what, a deaf cat should never be allowed to roam outdoors, Kiklevich said. Though it may be able to see, a deaf cat cannot hear approaching cars or barking dogs. In lieu of outdoor play, deaf cats should have plenty of visual enrichment via interactive toys and window perches.

While the outdoor dangers may be obvious, there are indoor hazards also, as Robert Neal of Dearborn, Mich., found after adopting Marley, a 4-year-old Sealpoint Siamese that was born deaf.

We've learned that we need to be especially careful not to step on Marleys tail or paws, Neal said. She likes to be right next to us, and since she's deaf she doesn't have the ability to sense when were taking a step back or to the side. Consequently, she gets nipped by our feet two or three times a week.

Physically Challenged
Cats are agile, active creatures, so the loss of a limb due to trauma or cancer can pose a serious challenge. But most cats are quite adept at meeting that challenge and getting on with their lives.

Joanne Hergert of Kooskie, Idaho, knows this firsthand. She adopted Scrunchy as a kitten because the orange domestic shorthair had lost the use of his left front leg due to physical abuse. Though initially reluctant to have the limb removed, Hergert was astounded at how quickly Scrunchy adapted to life with three legs.

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janet    bethlehem, PA

5/24/2009 5:29:56 AM

good article thanks

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