Adopting a special needs cat can be one of the most rewarding things you can do. Not only will you benefit from the love of a cat who knows she has been saved, but you may also be directly saving a life. When shelters have exhausted their space limitations and financial resources, special needs cats are some of the first to be euthanized to make room for cats who are considered “more adoptable.” The term “special needs” is very broad and applies to cats with all sorts of histories and challenges– some you may barely notice, while others will require more specialized care.
People should certainly open their hearts, lives, and homes to special needs cats, but adopting one isn’t a task to be taken lightly. Ask yourself these 6 questions to determine if you have the right kind of attitude, home, and lifestyle to properly care for a cat who may need a bit (or a lot) of extra attention and help.
#1 – Do you have the time to commit to a special needs cat? Whether your special needs cat will require a larger time commitment than any other cat will depend on what sort of challenge the cat has and how well she has been able to adapt to it. For instance, a cat who has recently lost her hind legs may require a lot of your time if she can’t cross a room or climb into the litter box on her own. A cat who has had more time to adjust to the loss of legs, however, may be quite skilled at maneuvering around and may need very little extra help. Determine what sort of time commitment your cat will require before you adopt her and make sure your schedule is compatible.
#2 – Can you commit emotionally?
Before you adopt a special needs cat, consider the emotional toll it could place on you and your family. It’s hard to watch someone you care about struggle to perform basic functions, and that applies to cats too. The emotional aspect may still be there even if you are 100% on board with caring for a special needs cat and have the resources to do it correctly.
#3 – Is your home appropriate for a special needs cat? Depending on what sort of special needs a cat has, your home may not be a safe place for her, or you may need to alter the environment to suit her needs better. If the cat has mobility challenges, for instance, you may need to be conscious about keeping all of the necessities (litter box, food, water, scratching post, toys, etc.) in close proximity and all on the same floor of your home for easy access. If a cat is blind, you’ll have to commit to not rearranging your furniture or leaving things on the floor that could become obstacles.
#4 – Is your lifestyle compatible?
If you have a household of rambunctious children, cats with certain special needs may not feel safe or comfortable in your home. Your lifestyle also may not be compatible if you travel a lot or spend a lot of time away from your home. Before adopting a special needs cat, consider whether you have the home and lifestyle that will allow her to feel safe, confident, and well cared for.
#5 – Do you have reliable transportation? Some special needs cats may require more frequent veterinary visits or come with a higher chance of requiring emergency care. Do you have a reliable form of transportation that would allow you to get a sick cat to an emergency vet at 3am on a Sunday?
#6 – Are you financially stable?
Some special needs cats require ongoing special medical care, medications, equipment, or more frequent emergency treatments. Before considering a special needs cat, make sure you are financially able to provide everything the cat will need to live a happy and fulfilled life.
If you answered “yes” to all six of these questions– great! Contact your local shelter or animal rescue and make an appointment to meet some of their resident special needs cats. I promise they’ll be excited to talk to you.