Not every adventure cat walks on four paws. Some rely on only two. Others wobble or even roll on wheels. Regardless of whether cats have the same physical abilities, they all have adventurous spirits.
Six-year-old Sol — who excitedly runs around with the help a leash and a harness — purrfectly embodies this adventure-cat spirit.
“She was quick to play with her toys and jumped around her suite just fine once she settled in,” Eziel Hernandez of Annenberg Pet Space tells AdventureCats. “After seeing some of those outgoing personality traits, we wanted to give her the same opportunity as any other cat and train her on a harness.”
That indomitable enthusiasm landed Sol in a forever home, where she’s now known as “Marisol” and has plenty of space and windows to watch the wild outside world.
For new owners of any cat with a disability, it can seem overwhelming. But with a little patience and time, these kitties can surely live an enriched life.
Beni, who is paralyzed in his lower body, can’t move his back legs or go to the bathroom on his own. But when his owners Gwen and Chris Richards saw a video of him, they fell in love.
“He was a tiny, fluffy kitten that seemed so happy despite only being able to move his upper half of his body,” Gwen says. “Since we had the time to take care of a special-needs pet and thought he would be a good fit with our other animals, we decided to adopt him.”
At home, Beni doesn’t hold back. Donning a diaper, he gets around with his front legs just fine.
“Beni has excellent mobility with just his front legs,” Gwen says. “He loves to play with lasers and toys, as well as with our other cats. If we don’t give him enough exercise, he will get up in the middle of the night and get himself into trouble, accidentally dragging shoes and blankets around with him!”
With a little help going to the bathroom and regular physiotherapy to keep his legs strong and healthy, Beni’s living his best life. And his owners are doing everything they can to make sure he can explore the indoors.
“We have built lots of ramps for him to access furniture, non-slip surfaces to help him ‘walk’ with his back legs,” Gwen says.
When it comes to ingenious solutions for cat mobility, Jennifer Baker Johnson and her husband, Dean, have perfected the art. They created the Kitty Box Ramp, a cardboard contraption that attaches to litter boxes to help cats with arthritis and other physical disabilities more easily take care of their business.
They first designed the ramp for their late cat Sam, who had severe arthritis in her old age.
“The last few years of her life, her arthritis was getting worse and we were noticing that she wasn’t wanting to use the litter box anymore,” Jennifer says. “We tried a few different kinds from litter boxes with steps to litter boxes with lower sides. But any step was just too painful for her and lower sides meant litter would end up everywhere. So we came up with this concept of a ramp that had an easy incline so it would be easier for her.”
They’ve since made modifications to the ramp to add safety features, including tread pads to help prevent slipping.
“Many think having a disabled or health-challenged cat is just too much to deal with,” Jennifer says. “But we have found through our customers and both our Sam and Hank [who has cardiomyopathy] that cats are incredibly resilient.”
And just because a cat may have a disability or impairment, it doesn’t mean that he or she can’t still enjoy the sights, scents or sounds of nature. In addition to catios and strollers, plenty of fearless felines still venture outside on a harness and leash — even if they’re blind like Stevie, deaf like Gandalf or have a bone deformity like Parsley.
Even cats like Zhiro, who has cerebellar hypoplasia, a neurological condition that causes walking and balance problems, are still able to experience the great outdoors. Zhiro’s condition prevents her from jumping, but it certainly hasn’t slowed her down — or kept her from climbing.
“Because of Zhiro’s disorder, we were told she would not be able to jump, but instead she would be a climber,” her owner, Lacy Taylor said. “We knew she would be the perfect fit for us since we identify as climbers ourselves.”
When it comes to adopting cats with disabilities, Hernandez says it’s simply a matter of making them comfortable and remembering they have the same desires as any other cat.
“Most of them have lived with their situation since they were born and may still want to receive the same enrichment and playtime that any other cat would receive,” Hernandez says. “In Marisol’s case, we first made her as comfortable as she can be by simply cutting up some yoga mats and placing them on areas that she walks and jumps on for extra padding. She was not able to enjoy a cat scratcher, so we helped the hunter kitty in her and used the wand toys instead. That way she can at least use her paws to ‘catch her prey.’ It’s very helpful to figure out what activities they enjoy the most and to schedule a time daily to bond and enrich their lives.”
And Beni’s mom echoes this advice.
“Cats with disabilities can be a great joy to have around,” she says. “There is some extra effort to take care of Beni, but he pays it back in purrs and cuddles. Cats that need special care can get used to their routine and be extremely cooperative when they need special care. The only advice that I would have is to make sure that you have the time and support to keep a special-needs cat.”
Do you have a kitty with a disability? Share your stories in the comments below!