Young kittens (2 - 5 months old) need a home where there will be someone with them most of the time.  These tiny creatures have always had the company of their mother and siblings and can become very stressed and lonely when suddenly left alone for long periods.  People who are out at work all day should not consider a very young kitten unless they are adopting two kittens together.  If there was another cat in the family that would be company for the kitten, someone would still need to be present with them for the first few weeks to make sure there was no agression from the older cat.  Kittens are not suitable for families with pre-schoolers.  An over-exuberant toddler may treat the kitten as roughly as a toy, causing serious injuries and the child could be badly scratched or bitten in return.  An older kitten or cat will usually be able to avoid the clutches of a small child.  Small kittens are highly active and constantly underfoot and therefore not a good choice for elderly people. A senior would be well advised to choose a mature cat who will not outlive them and whose subdued energy level is a better match.


These cats generally do best in a quiet home where there are no small children or noisy teenagers and very little household commotion.  They may still have their playful moments, but are generally content to curl up in a sunny spot or a cozy lap and have a quiet snooze.  They are ideally suited to mature people who do not want the mischievous playfulness of a kitten or young cat.  (See Eva)


A cat that has tested positive for FIV (See Odin) or FIP (Patty) needs a home where there are no other cats.  These viruses can be spread from one cat to another but not to other animals, such as dogs, or to humans.  Many cats with FIV or FIP show no signs of illness and can live a normal life span, while others may develop health problems due to a depressed immune system.


Cats who have had little or no human contact as kittens can be very shy and skittish around people.  It takes patience and perseverance to gain their trust but they will eventually respond to love and gentle handling.  They are probably best suited to a quiet adult home.  (See Ivor & Elsie)


Digestive or allergy problems may make it necessary for a cat to be fed a special diet such as hypo-allergenic, (e.g. Hudson) fibre or other prescription cat food.  This can be an added expense that a person should be prepared for when adopting a cat with any of these problems.  It is most likely that the special diet will have to continue for the life of the cat.  Cats with medical problems such as diabetes will require more frequent veterinary care and prescription medication or injections.


Given a chance and an understanding owner, a disabled cat can adjust and lead a full and happy life.  Cats are very independent and usually adapt themselves to their disability far more readily than most humans would.


Blindness or partial blindness may be caused by FIP (e.g. Patty) glaucoma, cataracts (e.g. Eva), illness, poisoning, or injury necessitating the removal of one or both eyes (e.g. Topaz).  When the loss of sight is gradual the cat is able to compensate gradually but when it is sudden, the cat is more likely to be disoriented.  Blind cats rely on scent and memory to navigate, so keep furniture in the same place and don't leave obstacles in unexpected places.  Don't move the litter pan or food dishes around and if carrying a blind cat around, be sure to set him down in a familiar area so he won't be confused.  Toys that make a noise will provide stimulation.  If care is taken to provide a safe environment, a blind cat can have a normal happy life.


Some cats, such as blue-eyed whites (e.g. Gus), are born deaf while others may lose their hearing gradually as they age.  Sudden loss of hearing can be the result of illness or injury and may cause the cat to be confused or irritable.  Some deaf cats may vocalize loudly as they cannot hear themselves, while others become mute.  A deaf cat may learn to respond to hand signals, light signals from a flashlight or to vibrations and, given a safe home, can lead a fairly normal life.


When a cat loses a leg due to an accident, it is not as catastrophic as it may seem.  After an initial period of adjustment, (which an owner may find painful to watch) most cats will quickly learn to make do with three legs and will eventually become as agile and active as a four-legged cat.  He will make some mistakes at first but don't be over-protective by carrying him everywhere; he needs to build up strength in his remaining limbs.  It is important that a three-legged cat remain as active as possible and not be allowed to become obese as he has fewer limbs to carry his weight.  (e.g. Alexei)


Kittens born to females who have suffered from Feline Infectious Enteritis, (Feline Panleukopaenia, Feline Distemper) during pregnancy may have defects in the cerebellum.  They will usually be smaller than normal and have slower development.  They also have poor co-ordination, a wobbly walk, sight problems and head tremors.  They are messy eaters and may need help cleaning up after eating and also after using the litter box.  Food dishes and litter box should be untippable; it also helps to have a high-sided litter box (except for the entrance) so the cat can lean on the sides when using it.  These cats will always be clumsy but they do adapt and, given a safe environment, can have a normal life expectancy.  (See Alice)


These cats have crippled front legs, often with toes going in all directions and a peculiar shuffling, bobbing walk - they often sit up like a rabbit.  To help these cats get around the house, carpet or rugs are needed.  Bare floors are too slippery as they do not walk on the pads of their feet but on a crooked part of the leg.  There is a danger of ingrown toenails as they do not get worn down from walking and they are unable to use a scratching post.  This is one instance where declawing may be necessary for health purposes.  Sores may develop on the leg because they are walking on the leg rather than the paw.  They often develop powerful hind legs to compensate for their weak front legs and can jump onto chairs or beds.  Jumping down is difficult and painful because they must land on their forelegs, so they may be frightened and wait to be lifted down.  Ramps covered with a non-slippery material may help the cat get up and down from a favourite spot.  Stairs are very hazardous to these cats.  Twisty cats should be restricted to one level of the house and a child gate (solid, not mesh that can be climbed) should be placed across the stairs.  Because they cannot crouch in a normal eating position, their food should be raised to their head height or they will eat lying down.

Most cats seem unaware of their disabilities and owners should be careful of being over-protective.  At the same time, they must be willing to make adjustments to their lifestyle to ensure a happy, healthy and safe life for their disabled cat.

* Condensed from "Living With A Disabled Cat" by Sarah Hartwell, used with permission.

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