In a survey conducted by PetFinder, animals that were considered "less adoptable" take four times longer than other pets that are currently waiting for homes. In fact, of the shelters that responded to the survey, 19 percent identified that pets with special needs are the hardest animals to find forever homes for. Cats with disabilities often get overlooked for adoption and without cause. While they may have special needs, they certainly are not any less deserving of love. Here are the stories of three handicapped cats and the special relationship they have with their human parents.
Cats with Disabilities: Milo + Kelly's Story
Several years ago, Kelly noticed something unexpected in her yard. "We discovered a tiny orange kitten huddled in our bushes and his leg was dangling in a way that wasn't natural." The cat appeared to be homeless, but Kelly couldn't quite be sure, as the cat wouldn't come out. So, she left him food and water, hoping it would motivate him to trust her and her family. "We quickly realized, though, that this kitten needed medical help," she says. Her entire family attempted to coax him out of the bushes so they could take him to the veterinarian for treatment. "Ultimately, it took my brother-in-law lying down on our driveway and gently meowing at him until he came out!"
Kelly's vet believed that the kitten had most likely been hit by a car and would need a leg amputation. However, the vet thought he might also have a concussion, and his chance of survival was slim. Taking a chance, Kelly named the cat Milo and chose to have the surgery to remove the dangling limb. "Milo recovered largely while sitting on my lap throughout the days and was still terrified of everyone but me and one of our sons," she explains.
In May, Milo will be eight years old. "He is still afraid of most people, but he is very loving with my husband and me, and our two sons, even though he doesn't always understand how to express his affection." When asked what challenges they face Kelly says, "He sometimes panics if it seems as though he'll lose his balance and may dig his claws into us sharply. So, that can take patience. He can move very well but occasionally misjudges a jump and knocks things over. Again, it's just a matter of understanding that he can't help it and just picking up the pieces."
Was taking the chance on saving Milo's life by amputating his limb when survival wasn't necessarily promised worth it? Absolutely. Kelly says, "I wouldn't trade this cat for any other in the world. He has taught me so much about patience and love." In fact, Milo has inspired other humans to take a chance on cats with disabilities, especially amputees. Kelly notes, "A friend of mine, Jodi, fosters cats for the APL in Cleveland. She has fostered hundreds, often picking the ones that have significant challenges and may not survive—and virtually every one of them has survived as she and her husband love them along. The one type of cat she wouldn't foster: amputees. But, as she watched how well Milo has done, she decided to start fostering amputees, as well, and Jodi has told me that Milo has saved multiple cats because he gave her the courage to love them to wellness."
Handicapped Cats: Dublin, Nickel + Tara's Story
When Tara adopted three-legged Dublin, she knew quite well what she was getting into. A lover of animals, she had previously loved and provided a home for another three-legged cat named Nickel who, unfortunately, died in 2015. When a friend called her to let her know there was a three-legged cat at a shelter in which he was volunteering his photography services, Tara certainly wasn't expecting to bring any new cats into her home. "I had already adopted two other four-legged cats after Nickel died," she says, "so I was hesitant, but I couldn't stop thinking about it, and I finally broke down and went to meet him." She ended up bonding with him immediately, decided to adopt him and brought him home that very same evening.
Her adoption of Dublin was similar to how she adopted Nickel years earlier. "I had gone to an SPCA with a friend to see a cat she found injured under her car ... and while we were there, she noticed this adorable gray kitten (he was maybe six months old) who seemed to be reaching out to us through the bars of the cage with his paw." It wasn't until Tara and her friend got closer to the cage that she realized the kitten was actually missing part of his paw. Since the shelter was waiting for an owner to claim the cat, Tara put her name down on the waiting list to adopt. When they called days later, Dublin's health was failing, and he had developed a fever. "I picked him up, took him straight to the vet, had what was left of that leg removed and then brought him home. Maybe three days later, still on pain killers, still all bandaged up, I found him on top of my armoire. To this day, I never figured out how he got up there, but nothing ever held him back."
Cats with disabilities search for love and affection from their owners just like any cat would, but Tara thinks this is especially true for amputees. "I have no idea if this is typical of three-legged cats, but (Dublin) is my lap cat, and so was Nickel. He is so friendly and warm and playful in a way that's just different than four-legged cats." She also finds that her amputee cats are very patient. "Dublin is—as Nickel was—the friendliest of the cats in our home, the most patient with my four kids, (9, 7, and 4-year-old twins), so that's saying a lot for any cat."
When asked what challenges she faces in caring for Dublin, she said, "The only concerns I really have with him are the extra stress on his remaining front leg ... and the kids accidentally getting too rough with him since he has one less limb to spare!" Dublin is very agile, so Tara isn't concerned about how he gets around or interacts with the other animals. "He has no problem running, jumping, or tussling with the other cats. He holds his own in a spat. As the youngest feline (he's about 3, my other male is around 4, and my female is 13 or so), he's full of energy and tends to be the instigator with the other cats."
Cats with disabilities, whether they are amputees or have any other type of disability or illness, deserve the love and attention these three cats enjoy. Just because they may not be as mobile as four-legged cats, they are likely to show the love back for taking a chance on them. While it can take some getting used to these cats are just like other cats and need a loving home like all other cats do. So, if you're considering getting a new cat, don't shy away from one that needs a little extra care — you might just find out that they are more affectionate and loving than you could ever imagine and be just what you wanted all along.
Erin Ollila believes in the power of words and how a message can inform—and even transform—its intended audience. Her writing can be found all over the internet and in print, and includes interviews, ghostwriting, blog posts, and creative nonfiction. Erin is a geek for SEO and all things social media. She graduated from Fairfield University with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. Reach out to her on Twitter @ReinventingErin or learn more about her at http://erinollila.com.