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Suppose you’re a shelter cat. People come by and coo and adore all your feline friends, but they never seem to take quite as much of a fancy to you as they do to the other cats in your room. Or maybe you do approach people and allow them to pet you, but then something happens when they read your paperwork and suddenly they’re not so interested in you anymore. You watch other cats come and go, but for some reason you never seem to find that forever home.

Of course, a lot of cats go through this. But for those with special needs, this story is entirely too common. That’s why Petfinder launched Adopt-A-Less-Adoptable-Pet Week, a campaign to raise awareness about the plight of animals who languish at shelters for reasons including age, special needs, and breed prejudice.

This year, Adopt-A-Less-Adoptable-Pet Week runs from September 17 through 25. Shelters across the country will be hosting events designed to bring their special cats into the spotlight.

My own love affair with special-needs cats began when I was about 14, when I had to bottle-feed a kitten whose young mother didn’t have enough milk to feed him properly. My next special cat was a psychologically scarred lady who was having a miserable time in her previous home. I’m grateful that I was able to rehabilitate and give a year of loving, trusting life before she died from widespread cancer. Then it was Castor, whom I adopted on my 13th birthday and who was later discovered to be FIV-positive. He was the first cat I took to the vet for his “final visit” — his body had become overwhelmed by infections he could no longer fight off, and it was the kindest (and most heartbreaking) thing I could do to help him.

Many years later, Thomas came into my life. He was very sick with an upper respiratory infection when I first met him, and it was clear he was heartbroken from the circumstances that brought him into the shelter: His beloved person had to be placed in long-term care and couldn’t take Thomas. It took a lot of special attention and love to bring him out of his grief and back into the world again.

A lot of people might have left Thomas to languish in the shelter because he was so shy and sad. Not only that, but he was “handicapped” by being an adult cat in a shelter full of kittens.

For the special cats I’ve loved and for all the others who have such a hard time finding a forever home, please spread the word about Adopt-A-Less-Adoptable-Pet Week and, if you have room, please consider bringing one of these wonderful cats into your family.

The photos I’ve included in this post are of special-needs cats I found when I searched shelters in my home state of Maine. Each photo has a link to that cat’s Petfinder listing if you’d like to learn more about him or her. No matter where you live, I’m sure you can find a special friend who would love to go home with you.

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