Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Their Special Needs

When writing about Neville for the previous entry in this blog, I started wondering about ‘special needs’ cats. Technically, the Nevsky is rated as ‘special needs’, because of his diabetes. I have read of others who fall into the category, perhaps because of their diet, which would have included my good friend Cammie. Some cats have allergies to a few kinds of food; others, like Cammie, are allergic to almost everything. Some cats have physical handicaps or health conditions that increase concerns over them. Even the aged can be considered as ‘special needs’, if extraordinary measures are required to take care of them.

My thoughts on this subject divided themselves into parts. Firstly, I wondered just where the line is drawn for placing a cat in the special needs category. Is it when medicine needs to be regularly given, as in the case of insulin? Does it depend on the frequency of the medicine? Its availability? If a cat has trouble with its waste management and needs a gentle laxative given once or twice a week, does this count? What about a cat who is mildly over-weight, and would benefit from a reduced or particular diet? Is it the ease of management?

Secondly, if the category of ‘special needs’ indicates a cat who requires care that is different than other cats’, or a cat who wants particular vigilance over diet or activity, does this not suggest that every cat becomes a ‘special needs’ cat at some point in his life? Certainly, some, like their human counterparts, age faster than others; some remain youthful in body and spirit long after their contemporaries want merely to rest in untroubled retirement. But most will reach a stage at which their care must become characteristic of their needs.

I don’t mean to belittle the label of ‘special needs’ or the cats to whom it is applied. Clearly, some felines cannot cope without constant help or supervision. A cat whose bladder needs expressing several times a day, one who has diabetes, one who must have dietary supplements; these are indeed in need of special treatment, as are many who are afflicted with what may be seen as lesser problems. These must be distinguished from other cats not so troubled. Unfortunately, their situations will sometimes affect their adoptions from rescue-groups.

Many people do not want a pet who will limit travel plans, or family gatherings or even every day routines. They want a pet who will enhance these activities, enhance their lives. I understand that; that is natural. It is no different in human inter-relationships: few people hope to find a life-partner who will require the most work and anxiety, while costing them all their excess money and time. Yet when we commit to a relationship, we accept the possibility that, barring deliberate infliction of hardship by the other party, we will be responsible for helping our friend over any difficulties that come up. Most pet-owners do this, as well; the care many pet-owners put into their furry family-members are as much to qualify the latter for special needs in any case. The difference with adopting ‘special needs’ animals is that their complications are presented at the start.

I have three ‘special needs’ cats: two diabetics - one of whom was not when I adopted him - and one elderly. The fourth will be, God willing, elderly in his turn. I have had another diabetic, a hyperthyroid, and one with FIV. I’ve had cats develop and die of cancer. I have learned to give insulin by two different methods, take blood samples, give medicine by pill and liquid, provide subcutaneous fluids, force-feed, watch for allergic reactions, clean bums and any number of other lessons too rare or too frequent (by now) to recall. But if there is one thing above these that I have learned, it is that all cats, from the healthiest to the sickest, from the most carefree to the fussiest, are, to some extent or other, ‘special needs’. A cat requires love and attention, a warm and comfortable home, security and health. These needs may not be designated officially as special, but they require work on the part of the human, as much as injecting insulin or shopping for expensive food for a specific diet. And they are special to the cat. 

So, to someone thinking of adopting a cat, perhaps for the first time, I would say consider, along with others, those with what are termed ‘special needs’, the ones who need people the most. It may be discovered that what these cats require isn’t much different than what every cat requires. Yet what is provided will make the difference between happiness and sorrow to that cat, perhaps between life and death. And it may turn out that the human will realise that he or she is receiving some special care, too.


  1. You're quite correct, John. Every cat at some point in time will become a "special needs" cat. He may eventually need medicine, or a special diet, or special care as he ages. Sadly, many people don't think of that when they think of adopting a cat. They want an animal that's
    "perfect". I've always had a soft spot for special needs cats. I've had cats that require insulin or other medication, cats needing subcutaneous fluids, cats with urinary issues who won't use the litter box, cats with physical disabilities and cats that need to be on a special diet. These cats have a hard time being adopted, which is unfortunate because given a chance, they make terrific pets.

    1. I too have a soft spot for these special ones. When I took in Raleigh, I did it because he looked so miserable in his cage at the prospective foster-home. It was a good home, and he likely would have been happy there. But he looked too sad for me to leave him. But I knew no one would adopt him, so he became mine right away. But he would have made a lovely fellow for any caring person.

  2. In my head when you offer a pet a home you are taking a vow to look after them in sickness and in health and to offer them a home and live for their whole lives.


    1. Exactly. Unfortunately, in rescue-work, it becomes clear that such an attitude is far from universal.

  3. You've summed up the problem nicely
    John..and only confirms what l and
    others have said, in your previous
    post..Neville should remain with you
    now! One other thing should be added,
    where is 'that' cat likely to be the
    You mentioned a couple posts ago, about
    getting another cat..and yet, Neville
    remains on the adoption list..
    I'm baffled..???
    If it was me..Neville would'nt be going
    anywhere..ever..! Bless him!x

    Sorry if this sounds a bit abrupt John..
    I feel quite strongly about Neville, and
    yes, l suppose l get a bit carried away..
    HeHe! Some people say..the futher the better..! :)

    1. Any cat I bring in will be a foster-cat, as Neville is. I'm looking after Neville for the rescue-group to which I belong. Despite the complimentary things people write about me and my home, there are many more wonderful potential homes for Neville and others awaiting adoption. If he is chosen, then I can bring in another foster-cat, rescued from a bad situation.

    2. Yes! Sorry John..I do understand..
      My feelings ruling my head..!

  4. It often occurred to me, when I was giving Nicki his Flovent doses 2x per day, that he would be labelled as a special needs cat. I never saw him that way, he just needed meds, that was all.

    I think that beyond any time and care constraints of adopting a special needs companion there is the financial cost. Not everyone who wants to adopt can knowingly take on the exorbitant costs of vet care today, even if they're willing to put in the time and care. This is unfortunate on so many levels, and it's the pets waiting for forever homes that suffer for it.

    1. Veterinary care is very expensive. It seems in many cases, one must choose between a pet and something else, like a car or travel.

    2. That is the truth. They are as expensive or more so really, than human doctors it seems to me.

  5. This is a copy of what you said above that struck me the most important of all.

    Yet what is provided will make the difference between happiness and sorrow to that cat, perhaps between life and death.

    That make me admire you all the more. Because that sentence is a hard kernel of truth.

  6. Taking the responsibility of any pet indeed requires that person to
    handle all aspects of care. It is a hard road for us, as a cat ages
    or simply becomes ill at a younger age, we have to buck up and do the
    right thing. And I hope cats with problem issues are adopted by
    people willing, like yourself, to handle it with love and care. And
    there are folks who do the right thing by adopting the healthy ones
    and then go forward from there.

  7. I hadn't thought of it specifically in those terms before I read your post, but, yes, when you adopt a pet it should be like a marriage--in sickness and health, till death do you part, etc. Hell, I've heard of one person who returned a cat because he wouldn't sit on her lap. Another brought a kitten back because he wasn't sufficiently "entertaining."

    I want every cat and dog to be given a home, but there are some people who just weren't cut out to have a pet.

    1. I don't imagine those people do well in human relationships, either.

    2. In the cases I know of, I can assure you that they don't.

    3. You are both right for certain, in my opinion.

  8. I'm considered a special needs kitty due to all the meds I require but I'm the only one at this point. Special is always special!

  9. very well put John and I hope you will share this post, or least some of this post, with the Lethbridge and allow them to re print


  10. I had never thought of it that way before, but I suppose Flynn would have been classed as special needs in his later years. I medicated him twice daily and tested his urine weekly, discussed his progress or lack of it weekly with his vet. but if you love them you do it without a second thought.

  11. Wonderful message John! Adopting a cat, or any animal for that matter is usually a long term commitment.

  12. We have five in our home at present and three have needs over and above providing a meal and a place to deposit same. That said they are all very special and have individual needs that make them so endearing. A very insightful post and one that should be added to required reading for those thinking of adding a pet for the first time.