Taking a chance on cats with special needs
By Nicole L. Czarnomski | Photography by Kelvin Andow
When searching for the purrfect feline friend to adopt, most people choose by the cat’s color, markings, breed, age or whether the cat is cuddly or playful. Some cats have disabilities that make them seem less adoptable. One Rochester woman says these cats are worthy of love, and they need someone to care for them too.
Cats are adept at adjusting to their ailment. Andrea Gosse has adopted a number of disabled cats. “Churchill, my cat I lost in April of 2015, had three legs. He ate, drank and used the litter box all on his own. He climbed a step stool to perch himself in the window, and he even climbed my Christmas tree one year!”
Gosse adopted Churchill from Paws and Claws Humane Society in Rochester about 17 years ago. She didn’t realize one leg was amputated. “He was curled up and I couldn’t see there was something different about him.”
The ailment didn’t change her mind about the adoption. “Churchill’s disability made him unique. He needed someone to take a chance on him and provide him with TLC,” says Gosse.
Without treating impaired cats as invalids, take precautions for their safety and comfort.
Disabled cats should live indoors. They cannot protect themselves from critters, cars or unfamiliar territory outdoors.
They need a strict diet too. “Read the cat food labels. Food high in gravy content is unhealthy,” Gosse says. “If you’re unsure of what to feed your cat, consult with your veterinarian. Portion control is important too, especially for three-legged cats. It’s too much strain on the three legs if a cat is overweight.”
For blind cats, keep the furniture, food, water and litter box in the same place so the cat can memorize a path through the house. Choose toys that crinkle or jingle so the cat can find them.
Deaf cats are sensitive to vibrations or visual commands. You can stomp or use a flashlight at playtime or to get the cat’s attention.
Gosse has four cats she adopted from Paws and Claws, and they all have special needs.
“[Paws and Claws does] a great job with disabled cats,” she says. “Many are sent to foster homes for rehab. When the cat is ready for adoption, the foster home provides information about the ailment, the cat’s progress, personality and pointers for making a successful transition.”
Common ailments include missing limbs, loss of sight or hearing, diabetes and arthritis. Some cats are born with a disability, whereas some result from accidents, disease or old age.
“We love the people in our life with disabilities. Why shouldn’t we feel the same about a cat?”
Gosse also has her cats licensed to visit nursing homes. Her cat Churchill was so popular among the residents, he received fan mail.
“Churchill visited elderly patients in the rehab clinic. It was a positive experience for both parties. Those being rehabilitated felt if the cat could thrive with a disability, so could they. In return, Churchill received lots of love and attention. And that’s all disabled cats need from us.”
Nicole L. Czarnomski is a freelance writer based in southeastern Minnesota, and she is the doting mother of two cats.