Sunday, January 23, 2011

Adopting a Special-Needs Pet

Every shelter has them - animals that would be perfectly good pets, except that they need a little extra care above and beyond what the average person wants to do.  It can mean anything from the need for daily seizure meds, insulin shots, to a pet recovering from an illness, to one having a permanent handicap.  Sometimes it's just because the pet is considered to be elderly, needs a special diet, or even has some behavioral issues due to mishandling in the past.

These animals need homes too - and it's not fair to simply euthanize them just because they present a few more complications (provided that they can live an otherwise happy, pain-free life.)  I firmly believe that if we as a society let companion animals "happen" due to our lack of spaying or neutering, then we as a society are responsible to find them good homes, even the ones that are a bit more of a challenge.

I've always felt that way on a theoretical level, but I freely admit that I was a little more wishy-washy when it came to MYSELF, and to the idea of ME adopting a special-needs animal.  "That's too hard," I'd think.  "Those animals need someone who doesn't work outside of the home to be with them."  Or, "I don't have the time to do that."   And these are legitimate concerns for some people - I am not trying to judge anyone who has made a different decision.

And then came Charlotte.  I didn't know that she was going to be a special-needs pet before I got her.  My guess is that if someone told me from the beginning that I would need to medicate her twice a day, every day for the rest of her life, that I would have decided against adopting her.  However, a few months after her adoption came the diagnosis for congestive heart failure.  I was attached to her by then.  When we were told that we could keep her alive and in comfort for at least a little while if we were willing to give her medication, we never even thought twice about it.

And I realized something.  It is not that bad.  It just becomes part of your routine, right along with feeding the animals, brushing your teeth, scooping the litter box, taking the dog out.   Forgetful?  I am too - we have alarms on our phones to remind us when we need to give out medication.

The only difficulty that arises is a minor one - it's difficult to spontaneously go out of town for an overnight trip.  We have to carefully plan for leaving town - usually arranging for Jeff's mom to come over and feed, water, and dole out meds, but we could board her at the local boarding kennel if need be. But really, is it that much different than having other, less needy animals?  We could never leave Argos unattended in the house for that long either, and would have to make special arrangements for him as well.

The purpose of this post is not to point out how great and selfless I am, because I'm no different than anyone else.  The purpose is to suggest that adopting a special-needs animal may sound daunting, but if you have it in your heart to be that animal parent, it's doable.  I know that Charlotte is probably easy compared to some special-needs animals.   And you definitely have to do this responsibly instead of just responding to an emotional plea - if you truly, truly do not have the time or resources to do something like this, then of course it isn't the best option for you.  But I'm guessing that a great many of us could take one in with little or no "ripples" throughout the household.

I know people who have diabetic cats that must receive insulin.  People whose dog needs seizure medication daily.  People who keep semi-feral cats, even though they'll never be completely socialized, just to give them a place to be, and to let them live out their days in comfort.  People who adopted an elderly, toothless greyhound who was dumped with my rescue group when she got to be too inconvenient for her previous owners' "lifestyle."    And the funny thing is - not one of them regrets their decision to take on one of these animals.

So if you can, I highly recommend it.  Oh, and so does Charlotte.

Adopt a special needs cat and you might get one as awesome as me!


  1. I'd like to point out also that basically every cat who is elderly develops "needs" that have to be addressed. My Molly lived to nineteen and she had numerous health issues that arose from age; hyperthyroid, kidney failure and arthritis to name a few. People forget that cats do not remain young and frisky forever and they are a lifelong commitment!

    Additionally, sometimes a cat who is labeled "special needs" is pretty much the same as any other cat. My Casper is deaf and so technically a special needs cat, but other thank having an unusual meow and the fact that we can leave the room without him noticing, he is just like any other cat! In fact he is most gentle cat that I have ever met. Its sad to think that someone might miss out on a beautiful relationship with a really great cat because they were afraid things would be tough. Deaf, ill, blind, or elderly all cats have something wonderful to offer us but as you say lifestyle, responsibility and level of work must all be seriously examined before committing to any animal!

  2. We agree with Cat! As our furkids age, they do have problems...just like people do.
    We've had a Deaf Cat, a CRF Cat, a diabetic Cat, and just plain old rickety Cats. They've all been dolls, and well worth the extra care. As for adopting older kitties, I think it's the way to go!

  3. I cannot imagine just getting rid of one of our cats, just because they were aging and being affected by conditions that come with age. I find it incredibly sad and infuriating that some people see no problem with doing this. It's always good to know that there are people who are willing to take on these "oldsters" and give them a nice soft place to land for their twilight years.

  4. You're right about that. Even adopting a healthy pet means you have to make time for it, feed it, take it out or clean after it, education, exercise... All that takes time. I know I was stressed out at first, having a small pup, trying to house break it and also trying to cure the mystery ailments she got. I admit, I almost gave up. But now I am really glad I didn't.

    It's easy to be lazy and comfortable, but people have the time and resources, indeed, why not choose to adopt the pet that needs a little extra care?

  5. Nice post and good comments.

    Love and licks to all the folks who give these pets another chance. I know that like you they are rewarded by a pet who teaches them valuable life lessons.

    It's very much a two-way street. You get what you give in this world.

    Love and licks Winnie

  6. Paige says that until all of my special needs problems are solved, she can't afford to help another. However, Paige is always volenteering and trying to help out because the pets with special needs usually have the softest, biggest hearts!!

    Wuv, Simba

  7. That is a good post! EVERY animal needs and deserves a home. Needing special medicine shouldn't mean also having to be euthanized, or having to live in a shelter forever!

  8. We just recently discovered your blog and really enjoy it. Momma thinks today's post is wonderful. We have "met" so many fantastic caring folks through the blogosphere who have turned "special needs" cats into just simply "special" cats. Our brofur One-Eyed Jack is just that, but he still is the head guy around here.

    Love from the Califurrrrrnia5
    Petey, Jack, Spunky, Tabitha & Madison LaRue (and Momma Pam too, of course!)

  9. Yep! Our first Greyhound had epilepsy. We had to give her a pill twice a day and have bloodwork done once a year, but it really was no work at all. If another dog happened into our lives who was special needs, we wouldn't hesitate.

  10. "The Boys" and I are glad we stopped by today. What a great "PSA" for special needs furrbies!

    Actually, we've had "special needs" kitties now for many years, getting our first one when she was a kitten. Only we didn't know she was considered "special needs"! To us, she was just deaf and also had epileptic seizures. So, we gave her Valium and diazepam pills (one each, twice a day) until she died about 19 years later! Never gave a thought to not doing it.

    Now we have four kitties, three of which have something or other that needs attention: Bowie, in particular, has asthma. We give him prescription Advair puffs once a day and Pro-Air puffs at least once a day, and he gets a shot when his ability to breathe is really bad. We've also learned that he now has a mass in his tummy. The four of them are in the 12-13 age bracket.

    We're glad to know there are those who read and post here (and who take in special needs furrbies) have really big hearts who can take in a special needs kitty from the shelters. Those darling little kitties get put there through no fault of their own.

    Lucky Charlotte! She's sitting there so pretty in that photo.

  11. Great post and we couldn't agree more! All of our cats have been special needs, usually because of temperament. We also occasionally do hospice foster care for terminally ill shelter cats, which is kind of similar and so important!

    Your pal, Pip

  12. This is an awesome post. I was adopted! I was 6 when my hooman friends came to meet me. They brought me home, and now I am thir-teen. :) Luv is vurry, vurry good for u. :)

  13. Excellent post! I can agree with everything you said. If someone had told me about Brut's aggressiveness and the hell I was going to go through before I got him, I would have back out of the deal right there. Now because of him, I have a desire to work with these misunderstood animals someday. It has given us a deeper bond and a completely different perspective that I wouldn't have if he wasn't in my life.

    Thank you for your thoughts. I always appreciate your post.

  14. I had a cat who lived to be about 18, and for the last five years of her life she needed daily thyroid medication. It's funny though, until I read this post I never thought of her as a "special needs" pet. She needed meds and I gave them, it was just part of her care. Would I have taken that on if looking to adopt a cat? I don't know, but I would hope that I wouldn't reject a pet just because they needed a little extra care. They DO deserve a chance for a happy life just like every animal. Thanks for this thoughtful post.