I have a confession to make: Sometimes during my breaks at work, I go on Petfinder and scour the lists of adoptable cats in my area, even though I know that I can’t add another cat to my family right now. But the search I use isn’t a typical one. I select for adult, senior, and special-needs cats. Here are nine reasons why my next cat is going to be one of these.
There are a lot of fantastic shelters out there: Cats live in rooms rather than cages, volunteers come by every day to feed and love the residents, they get the best possible vet care, and so on. But even the greatest shelter is no place for a cat to spend the rest of her life, and unfortunately that’s what happens to a lot of older and special-needs cats who end up there.
My oldest kitty is going to be 18 in May, and I’ve been with her since she was six weeks old. As I’ve been with her through her aging process, I’ve learned in a deep and heartfelt way what a beautiful thing it is to give an elder cat a comfortable and love-filled home.
My Bella is diabetic. I know how to give insulin shots, home-test blood glucose levels, and feed a diet that can minimize if not actually eliminate the need for daily insulin injections. I volunteered as a med tech at a shelter, and I’ve given just about every kind of medicine there is. I’m an experienced cat caretaker and I know how to do my research and work with my vet for the best possible outcomes.
I don’t have children to run to school and other events, I don’t have to work insane hours at an office, and I’m at a point in my life where I don’t feel compelled to spend night after night out on the town.
A lot of people don’t like the idea of giving injections or subcutaneous fluids, and plenty of others don’t feel comfortable giving medicines. Me, I’m fine with that. I don’t have a problem with cleaning up any kind of stuff that comes out of a cat’s body, and I’m willing to bathe a cat who needs it.
I’ve lost quite a few beloved cat friends over the years. While each of these losses was heartbreaking, they taught me how crucial it is to be present for every single day of a cat’s life and view every moment as precious. I know that pain is inevitable, but I’ve learned not to emotionally "check out" when a cat is nearing the end of her life.
Seriously, the serenity and wisdom in their eyes is nothing short of amazing. If you’ve ever lived with a senior cat, you know what I’m talking about.
These cats have been through a lot of challenges, but you’d never know it from the way they approach their lives. Whether they’re missing limbs or eyes, whether they have kidney disease or diabetes or cerebellar hypoplasia … they don’t know they’re different. They teach us how to "just be," and that’s a great lesson for all of us to learn.
You know the way some people are drawn to working with elderly humans, cancer patients, very sick children or people with disabilities? Many of the ones I’ve met say they do this work because they love it, because they feel drawn to it. Likewise, my soul is so strongly moved by these cats that I couldn’t imagine not having at least one old or special-needs kitty in my life.
What about you? Do you have a special "mission" for cats? Whether it’s adopting difficult-to-place cats, working with feral colonies, practicing shelter medicine, or whatever, tell us about it and what drew you to it in the comments!
Note: All the photos above are from Petfinder listings of adult, senior and special-needs cats within 100 miles of Seattle, Washington, on March 2, 2014. Click the links in the captions to check out their pages and find out more about adopting them.
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About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.