Should You Adopt a Special Needs Cat?

In rescue, historically, cats with any type of special need are instantly deemed “less adoptable.” When there’s plenty of sweet kitties available who do not have a special need, why take on the extra work or concern or medication expense? But, the sad side of it is that this means that even today, a large majority of these kitties end up being euthanized in shelters so that resources can go to more healthy, and thus more adoptable, cats. 

A special needs cat could mean everything from a cat who has irritable bowel disease and needs one pill a day to a diabetic kitty who needs an insulin shot twice a day to a kitty that is paralyzed and incontinent and needs it’s bladder manually expressed several times a day. 

In recent years, with the help of savvy animal advocates and social media, more education and attention has been brought to special needs cats, with such cases as when Kitten Lady Hannah Shaw fostered paralyzed kitten, Chloe or when TinyKittens Society rescuer Shelley Roche rescued and rehabilitated Cassidy the “miracle kitten” who lost part of both back legs at birth. This kind of public education and exposure has been great for helping people understand that special needs kitties need loving homes like every kitty and that the kitties themselves have no idea they are special needs. They just want to be loved like every other kitty. And, much of the time, taking care of them is actually no big deal.

Think about this: most dog owners need to somewhat revolve their schedule around taking their dog out to go to the bathroom several times a day. Doesn’t matter if they want to sleep in, or if it’s raining or snowing outside. Most special needs kitties require less of an extra commitment than that. 

Of course, there are no guarantees of perfect health when you adopt any kitty. You could adopt a happy, healthy kitten today that in a year or two develops diabetes or IBD or allergies, or some other medical issue that requires some type of daily treatment. Would you try to have your cat euthanized or surrender it to a shelter if it suddenly developed diabetes one day or developed another condition that required it to need a pill once a day? (If your answer is yes, then please don’t adopt a cat in the first place.)

The reality is that many of the special needs kitties that Cat Tales takes in end up living most or all of their life in foster care. The main reason is that these kitties don’t get as much exposure as other kitties in our rescue because they aren’t able to live at our Adoption Center where potential adopters could meet and fall in love with them. We can’t leave it up to our volunteers to have to administer medications, so these kitties need to stay in foster care to get their special care, even if that simply means getting a pill wrapped in a treat once a day.

For example, we currently have a complete darling named Oreo, who came to us five years ago (pictured at the top of this post). Oreo had been diagnosed with seizures and requires inexpensive medication twice a day. As a result, his owner was going to have him euthanized because he said he couldn’t afford his medical care. As you can see in this recent Instagram video, Oreo is a complete lovebug. If someone were able to look past his special needs (which are really no big deal at all), they could have such a wonderful kitty!

Another awesome kitty in our care is Mr. Cow, who was found in a colony in Philadelphia. Mr. Cow is FIV positive and also diabetic. MC is a pretty chill dude, who just really likes to be with his humans and is a really sweet cat that would make a great companion for someone. 

Mr. Cow is waiting for his forever home.

Unfortunately, we know Mr. Cow will be overlooked because he has so many strikes against him. He’s black and white (black and black and white cats are the least adopted colors), he is an adult, he’s diabetic, and he is FIV+, which is always very misunderstood. In fact, when we log into his Petfinder page, we see this message, letting us know that Mr. Cow has not piqued any interest. His FIV status doesn’t mean anything special. He just needs to be kept indoors, and his annual wellness exams can’t be skipped. His diabetes just requires a quick insulin shot twice a day. 

We understand it seems like adopting Mr. Cow might be too much extra responsibility, but it’s really not when you look at it. If you ever owned a dog, you would probably spend more time having to take your dog out for walks than you’d spend giving Mr. Cow his medication. And in return, you’d be getting the sweetest little kitty.

We know it’s not for everyone to open their hearts and homes to a special needs kitty. But, we’ve met those amazing people who get pre-approved for adoption then ask to meet whichever kitties have been waiting for a home the longest at our rescue. Those are the people who are our heroes. Not only does that give a loving forever home to that kitty who can’t help that they have a medical condition but deserves a home as much as all the other kitties, it also opens up a spot in foster care so that we can help another kitty in need. 

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