Redefining Special-Needs Cats

If you've spent years living with cats, you may have had a special-needs cat without thinking twice about it.

By Janiss Garza | Posted: February 9, 2016, 10 a.m. PST

Printer Friendly

Many people, myself included, say they don't have the time or finances to invite a special-needs cat into their lives. Because I travel a lot and hate being tied down, it would be difficult to have a cat that required daily intensive care. Our two-story house with its plank flooring might be difficult for a mobility-restricted cat to navigate. So does that mean I would never live with a special needs cat? Of course not. Because if you live with a cat long enough, chances are pretty good she will eventually become a special needs cat — don't most geriatric cats require special care?

It's time to rethink and redefine special needs. A special needs cat is not necessarily a cat missing an eye or a leg. In fact, "less than perfect" kitties such as these often don't require any special treatment at all and get around as easily as any cat with all her limbs and both eyes. On the other hand, sometimes special needs can't be seen. Inflammatory Bowel Disease kitties may look like any other cat, but they often require special diets, medication, run up loads of veterinary bills, and are often so picky about what they eat that mealtime quickly becomes an exercise in frustration.

There are also different levels of special needs. Take cats with cerebellar hypoplasia, for example. The part of the brain in these cats that controls fine motor skills is underdeveloped, and the cats have problems walking and balancing. This is mild in some CH cats, and more severe in others — but they are all able to have a great quality of life. In fact, one CH cat I know, a pretty calico named Sophie, travels places with her family, walks (although a bit unsteadily) on a harness, and even attended a blogging conference last May, trekking from her home in Macon, Ga., to Nashville. You wouldn't even know there was anything different about her (aside from being prettier than your average cat) until she stood up to walk. Sophie, who has a mild-to-moderate case of CH, occasionally makes messes and needs to be cleaned up, and prefers a litter box with high sides to lean against. This is a small price to pay for such a sweet, friendly cat.

Then you have the cat who becomes special-needs as she ages. I've had two cats who developed Chronic Kidney Disease as seniors, and one who had cancer. Caring for these cats took a lot of time, a learning curve and a lot of love. But isn't it often that way when a family member approaches the end of life? During the last couple years of two of these cats' lives, I couldn't travel at all, because I needed to be there for them. Sparkle, one of my CRF cats, had to be spoon-fed and needed fluids. A couple of times, before she got really sick, I had trips planned that I had to abort at the last minute because Sparkle needed me more. Those end times with Sparkle, and the other cats, weren't easy, but I just carried on ... because that's what you do.

So when you hear the term "special needs cat," and you picture a paraplegic cat, a cat maimed from an accident, or a cat living with a horrible birth defect, you need to broaden your definition. If you've spent years living with cats, you may have had a special-needs cat without thinking twice about it. And once you begin to realize what you've lovingly put into the feline family members of your life, no matter what, maybe you'll stop thinking about "needs," and realize that, in the long run, there's only "special."
Printer Friendly

 Give us your opinion on
Redefining Special-Needs Cats

Submit a Comment   Join Club
Earn 1,000 points! What's this?
Reader Comments

Timmy    Plymouth Meeting, PA

2/18/2016 11:35:10 AM

Our family has two special needs kitties who are wonderful cats. Rumpy developed a problem when going to the litter pan as for some reason his rear sphincter does not close so there is a bit of extra after he leaves the pan. Dad has him trained to go into the bathroom after he goes to the pan for a treat. Not exactly easy all the time but we love him. He has Asthma also and takes his meds like a champ. Buddy at age 15 has hyperthyroid and needs meds and coaxing to eat but Dad does not mind at all.
Our Special Needs are very special indeed. We love them even more!

Joy    Cocoa, FL

2/17/2016 2:26:28 PM

My kitty almost died at birth her mama couldnt feed her and i was not aware of this untill she was almost expired my son said mom this kitten is dieing . we quickly started feeding her with a spoon then got a kitten bottle and infant kitten formula
she grew big and strong but isnt the loving kitty i hoped she would be / i think she had brain damage and is autistic .
she will not let you hold her or pet her she growls first then hisses and if you persist she will tear into you .
she will at times come up to you and sit with you or on you but even a slight touch will set her off.
have you ever heard of this ???
advice would be appreciated :)
hugs n purrrrs to all <3

Tammy    Lenoir, NC

2/16/2016 10:51:46 AM

I had a kitty who was born with some sort of digestive problem. None of the vets could figure it out. Finally he got a hernia and died after surgery as his little 4 lb body couldn't take anymore.
We had no choice but to try surgery as his bladder slid down into his leg and it was painful for him.
He made it 5 years when all the vets said at 5 weeks to let him go he will never make it to 6 months..he will never make it to a year. Well he laughed at them and made it 5+ years! I wish it could of been longer but it wasn't in the cards for him. I used a truckload of paper towels and cases of cleaners in those 5 + years. I actually miss stepping in one of his messes and yelling "Ernie!" My other 3 fur babies are 11, 12 and 13. I am sure soon they will start having age issues. 2 already have stomatitis. But we will deal as we always have to and do whatever they need to live long happy lives. A cat is a life long commitment be in a few years or a couple decades.

Katie    Munhall, PA

2/16/2016 10:36:19 AM

SO TRUE! One of my cats suddenly developed paralysis. The vets didn't know why. He was in diapers for more than a year. He started to improve and we thought he was getting better and then suddenly he did a 180 on us. I had to euthanize him while my mother was in a nursing home. My mother cried like a baby. I love my vet because she is totally honest with us--she pulled no punches when it came to Phil's prognosis. I've had cats with kidney disease, one with an enlarged heart and its complications, a multitude of cancers, and age-related problems (including progressively worsening dementia over a 3 year period in our dog--the mop was our favorite friend during this period). Our furry family is not free and not cheap. The healthy may suddenly become unhealthy--just as we do. Don't abandon them!

View Current Comments

Top Products