About 15 years ago, I went to visit some cats at an area animal shelter. My first interest was to visit an older, FIV-positive cat who was looking for a home. There was just something about the look in his eyes that told me I had to meet this cat and see if we had that "let’s go home together" chemistry. I introduced myself to him, but he wasn’t terribly impressed with me.
While I was there, I figured I’d visit some other cats. It was a warm and sunny day, and a lot of the residents were basking and playing in the outdoor runs attached to the cat rooms. I went out there and I saw one cat who was just sitting in the middle of the concrete floor, looking so depressed that it broke my heart.
"He’s blind and deaf," explained a volunteer cleaning the run next door.
I sat down near him and tapped the ground, edging ever closer to him, and then gave him a pet on the neck. He barely responded to my overtures.
The whole drive back to the family homestead, I couldn’t stop thinking about this poor, sad cat. If it would have been safe for him to come to my place, I would have adopted him, but I lived in an upstairs place with a rickety staircase, and there were too many perils for a severely disabled kitty: wildlife, cars, and even livestock that might step on him by accident.
That was the first time I felt my heart break for a cat who would probably spend the rest of his life in a shelter. After all, one or the other of these disabilities would be enough of a challenge, but blind and deaf? Very few people could handle that.
As I got more involved in the cat blogging community, I read about The Grannies, two super-old cats that a woman adopted from a local shelter, and Anakin, a cat born without rear legs or a pelvis. Then I read Homer’s Odyssey, Gwen Cooper’s bestselling memoir about life with her blind black cat. I heard about rescue efforts for disabled and FIV-positive cats.
And I had a cat who died of lymphoma at age six. And I adopted another cat who had severe fear aggression and a luxated patella that was causing her chronic pain, and although my efforts to relieve her pain ended tragically, she did get to feel safe and loved before an anesthesia reaction took her life. And I adopted a diabetic cat. And my beautiful Siouxsie is now 18 years old, and I don’t know how much longer we’ll be together.
All of these experiences have moved me to make a pledge to my higher power and to the universe that from now on, when I have a vacancy in my feline family, I’m going to adopt "broken" kitties.
I want cats who are really old, who have disabilities or chronic health issues, or who are fearful and need a chance to realize the world is a safe place.
Purrfect Pals, one of the cat shelters in my area, offers a permanent foster program. This program allows the cat to live in a real home, but the shelter pays for the cat’s medical expenses, which can be pretty steep with certain health conditions. That sounds like an ideal setup for me: I’m really cat-savvy and I’m not squeamish or afraid of death and dying … but I don’t have tons of extra money to pay for extensive veterinary care.
Why would I put myself through this? It’s bound to be heartbreak after heartbreak, isn’t it?
Probably. But I’m not afraid of grief. In fact, it’s my grief over losing so many beloved cats that’s been my biggest inspiration to adopt “broken” cats. The best way I can transmute my grief into something positive is to give an elderly, sick or disabled cat a permanent home.
Iris, Dahlia, Chrysanthemum, Castor, Pollux, Maddy-Gold, Purr Bear, Shaughnessy and Sin├®ad would want it that way. And they’ll be waiting for their kitty brothers and sisters on the other side of the Bridge.
What about you? Do you want — or have — a house full of "broken" kitties? Please share your stories in the comments.
Read more about adopting “broken” kitties:
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.