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How to Make a Happy Home for Cats With Special Needs: 3 Vet Approved Tips

Written by: Codee Chessher

Last Updated on January 25, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

blind Tortoiseshell cat in the wicker bed

How to Make a Happy Home for Cats With Special Needs: 3 Vet Approved Tips

VET APPROVED

Dr. Alice Athow-Frost Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Alice Athow-Frost

Veterinarian, BVM BVS MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Owning a cat is a humbling experience, but being a pet parent to a cat with special needs is an entirely different ball game. Cats with permanent disabilities like blindness, deafness, and limited mobility take more diligent work and thoughtful consideration to care for but are just as deserving of a loving household. So, how do you get started, exactly? You can keep reading for a better idea of how to make your home a more comfortable, safe place for your disabled cat.

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Before You Begin

Before you start, you’ll have to educate yourself on your cat’s disability and how it affects their quality of life. You’ll also be responsible for medical expenses, including ongoing medications, surgeries, and routine wellness checks. Again, it varies depending on your cat’s particular needs. From there, you can modify your home to help your cat navigate life more easily and feel more comfortable and happy. .

Chronic illnesses like hyperthyroidism, mobility limitations like amputation or arthritis, and deafness/blindness all have their own unique challenges. Your vet can run tests and blood work to ensure they (and you) have a comprehensive understanding of your cat’s condition/s and how they can best be cared for.   A more personalized manner of care will help your kitty maintain the best  quality of life possible.

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Top 3 Tips to Prepare Your Home For a Disabled Cat

1. Set Aside a Space for Your Cat

All cats need a secure space to call their own, but this can be even more important when a cat has additional needs.   Cats prefer small, confined spaces like boxes, crates, and shallow nooks around your home. They are also drawn to elevated spaces like on top of cupboards or high furniture, which can be especially dangerous for cats with special needs or disabilities.

A travel crate in a secluded room or corner that doesn’t get much foot traffic works great and doesn’t cost much. You can get a soft pet bed for cats with mobility limitations like arthritis or leave it bare, depending on what your cat prefers.

blind tabby kitten playing in the scratching post
Image Credit: Casey Elise Christopher, Shutterstock

2. Adapt Your Home to Your Cat’s Disability

How you change your home to suit your cat depends on your cat’s disability. The three most common disabilities in cats are visual impairment, deafness, and limited mobility.  These disabilities need to be handled differently.

Visual Impairment

Cats with impaired vision or blindness rely on routine to traverse your home. To help them, it’s best to avoid moving furniture. Like blind humans, blind cats memorize their home’s layout and struggle when objects aren’t where they should be.

Strategically place scratching posts as key landmarks around your home so your cat can smell where they’ve scratched and use it to navigate. While blindness is a devastating loss, cats adapt admirably to it with patience and reliance on their other senses.

Deafness

Deaf cats are at risk if they go outdoors because they can’t hear cars, people, or approaching predators, so securing your home’s entrances is necessary. You’ll also have to learn to use broad, obvious gestures to communicate with your cat since they can’t hear you.

To deter a cat from leaping onto a counter, you could wave your arms or make other fast, big gestures to get your cat’s attention. As they aren’t disturbed by the noises of the house, deaf cats may sleep more deeply, which means they can be easily startled.  When approaching a deaf, sleeping cat, taking heavy footsteps allows the cat to feel the vibrations of your feet so that they aren’t startled. Deaf cats are more challenging to communicate with at first, but you’ll learn how to adapt with time.

Limited Mobility

Cats with limited mobility due to arthritis or amputation need help getting around. If possible, install ramps, shallow steps, or shelving to help your cat move around your home. Non-slip padding or mats are invaluable for helping your cat keep a grip in areas where they hang out.   You can get low-sided, extra large litter trays specifically for cats that have limited mobility; this helps them get in and out and means they have more space to move around and find a comfortable position.  Arthritic cats will also benefit from a lovely soft bed, as they are likely to be lying down for long periods of time on sore joints.


3. Integrating with Your Household

It’s critical that every member of your home is on the same page about your cat’s disabilities and that you provide supervision for younger children interacting with the kitty. Establishing a routine is extremely important, and it might be a good idea to team up and split up responsibilities for the cat.

For example, you can change who handles the litter box duty, grooming, and vet appointments. Your cat will also need regular play sessions within their limitations. Blind cats can’t see colorful toys, for instance, but still go wild for catnip toys. By contrast, deaf cats love flashy, quick-moving toys but can’t appreciate toys with sound effects. Finding ways to bond with your cat is vital for building a stronger bond as their owner.

cat staring on laser pointer
Image Credit: Laurav1984, Shutterstock

4. Keep Up with Your Cat’s Health

It goes without saying, but keeping up with your routine vet appointments is very important, especially if you have a cat with special needs. Their condition could change as they age, or a related condition could crop up, making early detection your best ally. Special needs cats are often more expensive to care for as they require frequent vet trips, medications, and special adaptive equipment to live a full life.

Another important responsibility is keeping a very close eye on your cat’s health and routine. If their condition deteriorates or you notice any significant changes in their daily routine, a visit to the vet is necessary. Cats are good at hiding when they’re ill, but watch for signs of unusual fatigue, reclusive hiding, or sudden vocalization. Those are some subtle signs your disabled cat doesn’t feel well, and if you’re sensing a trend, it merits a trip to the vet’s office.

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Final Thoughts

Caring for a cat with special needs can be arduous at times, between learning how to communicate with them, tailoring your home to their needs, and worrying about their health. However, if you’re up to the challenge, it’s one of the most rewarding and enriching experiences you can undertake. By modifying your home and adjusting your lifestyle to meet your cat’s needs, they can adapt and live a long, happy life.


Featured Image Credit: Elliza_77, Shutterstock

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