Special Needs Kittens

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Every breeder wants the best and most loving home for each of the kittens they raise. And new owners are hoping to find the perfect kitten. Yet, not every kitten born is born perfect in every way. A kitten may have a health problem, a behavior concern or even a disfigurement from an accident.

Finding the right owner to love and care for such a kitten is a heavy responsibility for the breeder who brought the baby into this world. Sometimes the imperfections are so great that the breeder may wonder if they will be able to place the kitten in a new home at all.

I call these kittens, my "special needs" babies.

I have been involved in the rescue of abandoned dogs and cats for over 30 years, and so I am familiar with a wide range of animals who had been rejected and are in need of new homes. I have spent a great deal of time looking for the right home where they will be understood and cared for properly. It is seldom a simple task.

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

What is a special needs kitten?

A special needs kitten is one who for one reason or another, is going to require more than the usual amount of care or understanding on the part of a new owner.

The types of conditions that could lead to a kitten being deemed "special needs" can be divided into several general categories.

  • Known Medical Problems
  • Cosmetic Concerns
  • Behavioral Problems
  • Temporary Concerns or We-hope-he'll-grow-out-of-it...

Known Medical Problems

Even the most conscientious breeder may occasionally have a kitten born with an unexpected health problem. The diagnosis may be made during a routine veterinary examination for vaccinations or it may follow an acute episode of symptoms.

Examples of health problems include:

  • HCM
  • PKD
  • Epilepsy
  • Diabetes
A male Maine Coon that Sally had sold as a breeder was returned to her when he developed cardiomyopathy as a young adult. He was altered and is now living a wonderful life as the beloved pet of a new family. The family are aware that he could die at any time and love him all the more. Sally placed him for free and pays for all his medications plus a yearly echocardiogram.

Cosmetic Concerns

A kitten may have a condition that does not really pose a health problem, but is more of a cosmetic issue. It could be a kitten that is born with a crooked nose or a large tail kink. An over-enthusiastic inexperienced momma-cat may bite off a bit of a tail or ear when licking her newborn. A fall or infection could require the removal of an eye or limb.

When he was only 11 weeks old, a Persian kitten jumped down from the sofa and landed badly on his hind leg. The accident injured the nerves in his leg and it eventually had to be removed. The kitten was adopted by a family who didn't mind having a three-legged cat. They named him Tripod and he scampers about their home as if he has legs to spare.

Behavioral Problems

Behavioral problems require the breeder to use extra care in placing the kitten in a suitable household. Common problems include:

  • Poor Litter Box Habits
  • Shyness
  • Aggressive Behavior
  • Destructive Behavior
A 10 year old Siamese was turned into the local rescue society when its elderly owner died. It was known to have poor litter box habits and to be a bit cranky at times. It was adopted by another elderly woman who had lost a cat not long ago with similar litterbox issues. She was familiar with the problem and willing to accept the challenge of cohabiting with another problematic feline citizen.

Temporary Concerns or We-hope-he'll-grow-out-of-it...

Some health concerns may be temporary. A kitten recovering from ringworm, for instance, has a problem that will require extra care for the short term, but will be okay long-term.

Most young kittens with a minor heart murmur, Grade 1 or 2, will grow out of it with time (although it is not guaranteed).

A little Himalayan boy was born with a badly mis-shaped mouth and bite. He needed constant help when eating and made a real mess of himself and his food plate. He was placed with a stay-at-home mom with two young teens and they all took turns helping him eat. Over time, he learned how to eat just fine on his own, even if he will never win a medal for his table manners.

Finding the Right Owner

It takes a special kind of person to take on the challenge of a special needs baby.

  • There are owners who have the strength and desire to take on special needs kittens, no matter how poor the prognosis may be.
  • The first step to finding the right person to adopt a special needs kitten is to be completely candid about the kitten and your concerns.
  • Sometimes common sense will dictate your judgment. A shy kitten should not be placed into an active household with noisy teenagers and younger toddlers. The stimulus would be too much for the kitten to make an easy adjustment. A young couple or an retired senior might be the perfect home for such a kitten.
  • When placing a kitten with a diagnosed health issue, provide the potential owner with as much written information as possible. Ask them to speak to your veterinarian and to consult with their own vet if they have one before accepting the kitten.
  • Be honest about the worst case scenario including additional medication or veterinary bills. You may choose to accept full or partial financial responsibility for future testing and or medical costs.
  • Discuss with the new owner the possibility of a shortened lifespan, and the emotional costs for the entire family should that happen.
Boomeranging


Sometimes, even the best home doesn't turn out. Be prepared to take a kitten back, no questions asked. It is the right thing to do for the kitten, the owner and for you.

Conclusion

Every kitty deserves to have its own family - someone to love it and be loved in return. It may take you a good deal of time to find the right home, but never give up. There are wonderful homes out there for even the most difficult to place cat. Spread the word, be patient and flexible.

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