One of the most heartbreaking parts of working in an animal shelter was watching the cats with special needs get disregarded by potential adopters, over and over. “Special needs” is a very, very broad term that covers an expansive sea of health issues and physical disabilities. The term can cover anything from blindness to a a missing limb to a health issue like FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus). Essentially, it’s an umbrella term that means the cat will require some level of additional care.
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I knew these cats to be playful, clever, loving, and able, but they struggled to find forever homes due to the misconceptions adopters had about their health and quality of life. Here are some of the most common misconceptions people have about special needs cats, along with a healthy dose of reality.
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“That cat is broken. She can’t do the things other cats can do.”
This is one of the most unfortunate misconceptions about special needs cats. The truth is that cats are incredibly adaptable creatures and are usually quick to find creative and efficient ways to deal with the challenges that are thrown their way. If you need some proof, check out these cats who get around just fine with less limbs or these other cats who thrive with their respective disabilities.
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“Cats with special needs are very, very expensive. I’m not a millionaire!”
This misconception varies a lot, depending on what type of special need a cat has. If a cat has a chronic illness then, sure, it can be expensive to pay for extra veterinary visits, emergency care, medications, etc. However, that’s not the case for the majority of cats with special needs. Some of them require only minor extra expenses, like a prescription diet. Many of them require no added expense at all! For instance, a cat who was born deaf will require some extra awareness at home in order to feel safe, but he won’t require extra medical care or a special diet.
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“Cats with special needs don’t live as long. I want a cat who will be with me for years.”
Most cats who have special needs don’t have issues that will shorten their lives. Even cats with chronic health issues are living longer, high quality lives due to the immense advancements in veterinary medicine.
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“It’s not a big deal if I pass up the special needs cat. The next person will adopt her.”
A cat with special needs will, on average, live in a shelter for a heartbreakingly long time before an extraordinary person will come along to adopt her. And that’s assuming that an extraordinary person shows up in time. Animal shelters are usually packed with animals looking for homes and special needs cats are often euthanized to make room for cats who are deemed “more adoptable”. If you have room in your home and heart for a cat who requires a bit more care and love, you can literally save a life.