At Rafiki's Rescue, we specialize in the special needs cases that most would find "undesirable." Special needs animals come in all shapes and forms and the conditions vary greatly. Simply put, a special needs animal is just one that needs a little more help or attention than your average one. Some of these conditions do not hold them back at all, but just make them a little more different or unique! Some of them take more tentative care and in this section we will list and describe the types of common special needs conditions as well as the more rare ones we have encountered and what exactly it means for the effected pet.
In the end, special needs animals have so much to give back to the world and their unconditional love is truly something to behold.
What is Special Needs?
Despite what you would otherwise think, blind cats and kittens get around in life just as well as every other cat! Most times, their other senses are much more highly developed and they rely on these senses to understand their surroundings. More often than not, you would never know they were blind if it weren't otherwise obvious!
It is preferred that blind cats live in a stable home environment where furniture is not often rearranged. Kitty friends are also a great source of stability to have in their lives! Blind cats often form very strong bonds with their humans as they become a large source of comfort and familiarity to them. Rest assured they will play, eat, cuddle, and live life to the fullest just as every other cat would! Blind kitties make the best kitties!
Some kittens are born with congenital birth defects that can play a major role in the rest of their lives. Some of these include deformities of limbs or other parts of their body. In Bindi's case, pictured in this photo, her back to legs did not properly form in the womb and left her with little to no use of them.
Luckily, cats are amazingly resilient and adaptable and many of these conditions can still allow them to live long, happy lives. Bindi learned to walk using only her front two legs and lifts up her back end as she walks. This condition has not stopped Bindi from being an outgoing and affectionate kitten and she has no problem reaching the very tippy top of the cat tree! Little known fact, another word for "resilience" is "Cat!" :D
Congenital deformities vary with each cat and it is important to adjust their care according to their condition. In Bindi's case, we will have to look out for arthritis in her older age as well as be sure her back legs do not become painful to her later down in her life. Other than this, she is a perfectly imperfect kitty!
Paralysis can be congenital or can be result of an injury, though more likely injury. In Hercules' case, he was so little when he arrived that we were not able to confirm the source. For Hercules, his paralysis is only partial and, while he does have some use of his back legs, he can not stand up on them to walk and instead drags them behind him. His ability to use the bathroom on his own is also limited and he has to be manually expressed to fully eliminate both urine and stool multiple times a day. Conditions where manual expressing is required can prove to be some of the most challenging of special needs due to their round the clock care & importance, but it does not make their lives any less fulfilling and deserved. As far as the paralysis, a kitten who can eliminate their bowls on their own has relatively easy care and maintenance. Frequent bathing and some adjustments are required, but their quality of life is not minimized in the least. Hercules is a happy kitty despite BOTH his partial paralyzation and need to be expressed. He plays and climbs extraordinarily well, despite his setbacks. He is full of SO much love and life and his routine has become a very normal and easy part of his every day for him. Those who care for cats such as these will in return have the most rewarding love & bond with their kitty and your love for them is so needed!
F I V
While some may not consider FIV kitties truly special needs, we feel it was still worth the honorable mention because they can be just as overlooked as these other special kitties. FIV, or Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, is very similar to the human HIV and compromises the infected cats immune system. These cats can still live full, healthy lives if given the right, precautionary care. A high quality diet, immune boosters, and supplements can go a very long way for keeping these cats healthy. An indoor only lifestyle is a must because exposure to any illness can be extremely difficult for them to fight off or even deadly. However, in most cases this virus can be managed very easily though proper care! Despite what many might believe, FIV positive cats can also live very safely with other cats. FIV is transmitted almost exclusively through unaltered, stray cat, territorial fighting that results in deep bite wounds. Not those from your every day, indoor cat, play wounds. In Rocky's case, he was found in rough shape living unaltered on the streets. Now that he is safe and cared for, he lives happily and healthy inside and does wonderfully with his kitty friends now that he is altered and no longer fighting for his right to live.
Hydrocephalus is a build up of fluid in the cavities deep within the brain and can cause the head to become enlarged as well as cause some neurological symptoms. This is a very serious condition that requires advanced lifelong care and veterinary resources to maintain. If treated properly, these cats can still live loving, fulfilling lives! However, it is a very sensitive condition that requires very attentive care. Expensive tests such as CTs and MRIs are frequently run throughout a hydro kitties' life and often times a shunt will need to be surgically placed. The fluid will have to be properly managed using a variety of medical veterinary procedures as well as daily medications such as a diuretic. Hydrocephalus cases are very rare and very involved, but we still feel it is important to spread the knowledge of these cases so that they can be properly funded when needed in order to ensure these cats and kittens the best chance they could possibly have. SHAHS is an amazing nonprofit organization that specializes in these cases and offers a plethora of knowledge and resources!
***More Coming Soon***