Stories - People With Disabled Pets

Wendy Panaro, Milwaukee, WI
Magoo 1997 -2000 - Adopted as blind, and sucumb to neurological storage disease

We got Magoo in Dec. 1997 when someone moved out of an apartment and left Magoo (we named him that) and Mister (his name was known) behind. He was estimated to be 5 months old. It was winter. Mister was in the house with no food, water or litter and Magoo was found several days later outside huddled by the garbage cans. He was blind. We believe he was thrown out to die. I heard about them and was only going to "foster" them. We had him until he passed in March 2000.

In April 1999, Magoo started tipping over at random and we were finding pee puddles in the house. The vet discovered he had no control over his bladder. We took him to the UW Madison (Wisconsin) vet school and hospital and had a MRI. He was diagnosed with glycogen storage disease. The disease stores glycogen rather than eliminating it from the body and that storage was killing the cells. They told us his bladder was the first to be affected and it would paralyze him from the back legs forward (which is exactly what it did). We knew the disease would paralyze him and eventually take him from us but we always maintained that we would let Magoo decide when it was time. It was our first experience with a special needs cat (he was blind already) and we committed to maintaining his quality of life for as long as he needed. We literally altered our life and schedules to meet the demands of Magoo's needs.

As an example, he loved to sleep with us but could no longer jump on the bed so we set up an air mattress in a spare room and took turns sleeping with him every night for the 11 months after he was diagnosed. We expressed his bladder at least 4 times per day onto a wee wee pad. Eventually he also needed help with passing feces too which was also helped. He went in weekly for sub q fluids (way before we learned how to do it ourselves). We made special fish for him (his favorite) and we provided hours of lap time which was his favourite activity. He even went to the drive in movie with us several times that summer since he could just sit on our laps.

My heart went out to his story (and Mister who we also took in). Never did we dream we would have him for so little time and have the complications we encountered but we say it was God's way of testing us and now he regularly sends us special needs cats.

There were added costs, an MRI and weekly sub q fluids as well at nutriceuticals to try to help him. We didn't keep track of how much is cost but it is drop in the bucket compared to what we incur these days with our several special needs cats and normal cats. Cost is not a factor when it comes to the well being of our pets. We get them anything they need.

It can be time consuming, but we gladly, willingly and lovingly do it. For Magoo it meant we could never be gone for more than a few hours because we needed to get home to pee him. We got up in the middle of the night to pee him. All to keep him comfortable. Our current special needs cats are (2) diabetics and (1) kidney failure. The diabetics need shots every 12 hours and we give sub q fluids to the kidney failure cat on the same schedule. The point is that we do whatever is needed for the situation. At times it is stressful but we also have a pet sitter than can pinch hit for the shots at least.

Magoo was a gift from God. I learned so much about cat care from him....things I still use to this day. He was a beautiful inspiration as he had no idea that cats didn't all walk on just 2 legs (he was blind). Animals don't see themselves as special needs. That is term we put on them. They just want the same comforts and attention a "normal" cat wants. His attitude toward life was happy up until the last day when complications of the disease became too great. He didn't know he was sick or dying. We can learn a lot from animals.

Here I am 15 years later and all I adopt are special needs cats now (the last 3 have been diabetic). The costs can be steep (we spent about $20K in unplanned vet bills last year....not even counting regular visits, food, medicines). Yes, it was a rewarding (but difficult) time in our lives with Magoo but we are blessed to learn and now have the skills that so many others do not. Our long term goal is the open a shelter for special needs cats (ones who have diabetes, paralysis, blindness, kidney failure, thyroid disorder, etc.) so that people don't automatically think euthanasia. We have living proof that many can have a great life after diagnosis. And it all started with Magoo in 1999.

Debbie Hicks (Germany) 
Squirrel 2 yrs - Adopted as disabled with bullet lodged in spine

Squirrel came to me on October 21st 2013. Squirrel was shot in the spine, the bullet is still stuck in it, it´s inoperable, She is paraplegic, has no feeling or function in her back legs. I had planned, that my next cat would be a disabled cat, definitely had not planned for it to be a paraplegic cat. I saw Squirrels picture on the Let´s Adopt Global page on Facebook and knew I had to have her. I thought about it for a week since I already have 3 cats, but I could not get her out of my head. So I applied for the adoption and she was sent to me three weeks later - since I live in Germany, the flight from Bulgaria was not that long, so easier for her.

Squirrel learned fast to get around the apartment on her own. I bought pet stairs so she can get up on the couch. She has no bladder function, I have to express her bladder twice a day and until we found the right diet also had to massage and express her intestines. She is continent with her bladder, so no diaper needed, incontinent with her intestines, so I have to clean up after her.

I have some added cost with Squirrel. Squirrels diet is a mix of raw food in the morning and kibble in the evening, it´s what I found to be best to keep her bowel soft enough to come out on its own and not too soft, so I don´t have to give her a butt bath daily. So the diet costs a little more (kibble costs 24 Euros (approx,.19$ for a 2 kg bag). Since she doesn’t need a diaper, it saves me a lot of money. It was helpful that I have a good vet, she took onto Squirrel very well, showed me how to express her bladder

There are stressful days and "normal" days, depending on her mood. The bullet sometimes causes her pain and she will be grouchy and that makes it hard to express her bladder, But since we figured that out, she gets a pain killer when I notice her getting grumpy. Of course there are days where she needs a butt bath which is time consuming and it has happened that I was somewhere having fun with friends and had to leave because it was her time to be expressed. She needs her physiotherapy daily since her back legs still show slight movement due to the reflexes (no feeling in them though), so those reflexes have to be worked on to keep them working.

Disabled cats are very thankful and they manage very well with their disability, they have a very hard time finding a home, because people are scared to take in a disabled pet and the chance that they will be euthanized is very high. Saving Squirrel was definitely worth it! I wouldn’tt want to miss Squirrel anymore and can´t imagine what it was like before she came to live with me.

Pip 2 yrs - Beloved pet that an injury left her partially paralyzed

Pip was a normal cat and was abandoned by her original people in July 2012. It's very hot here in the summers, and the place they left her was one building away from the intersection of a six-lane road and a four-lane road. I took her in and assumed she'd be a foster. I assumed incorrectly.

Pip slipped out of the house one night at the end of June 2013. When I found her just before dawn, she was lying in the driveway with no use of her rear legs. Tests showed a luxation at the base of the spine. She had no visible injuries, so nobody knows what happened. We were in the vets office and I looked at her, sitting with her front paws in my lap, perfectly aware and very much present. When the first vet told me I should "give her a graceful exit," the staff then left me alone with Pip for 10 minutes to say goodbye. If they hadn't done that--if they'd kept a hold of her instead of letting me take her onto my lap--I might've let her go. But when they went away and she looked at me and patted my face, as though I were the one who'd been hurt, I couldn't do it. I elected to take her home for 24 hours to see how she'd do, and the short answer is that I've never looked back.
Pip's rear legs do not function--although she uses them for balance--and her tail drags (although it does lift out of the way when she's using the box). She sometimes balances on her front paws and lifts her entire rear in an eerie, balletic motion. More usually, though, she runs and walks with her back paws dragging the ground. She moves swiftly, climbs onto low chairs unassisted and "her" sofa with the aid of stairs, and has a step (really a carton lid) at one end of the litter box to make access easier. She does have bladder and bowel control, so we've not needed to make any adjustments there except to tuck a puppy training pad under the box for those times she miscalculates just where her rear is in relation to the edge of the box: although she has sensation in her legs and tail, her proprioception is poor. I keep cords out of the way and the lid of the toilet closed. In this regard, it's not unlike having a baby that's at the crawling stage: what might she get caught on?

These first months have been a little costly, mostly been a matter of regular vet checkups to make sure nothing horrible is happening internally. It is very stressful, but I am an easily stressed person, and new to this. I'll be taking in a foster cat within the next couple of weeks, and I'm hoping the two of them will get on. Most of the stress, for me, is that Pip isn't able to entertain herself so well as she used to, so she's bored. Having only recently discovered boredom myself, I know it can drive a being half-mad.

If there's a reason to take on a disabled animal instead of a normal one, the obvious response is that such an animal has fewer chances. I think lots of people ought to give themselves more credit, though--look at the animal's eyes or face or the way it holds itself, the same as you would a "normal" animal. Does it call to you? That's a decider.

She's Pip. She's my girl. With luck and attention, that'll be true for at least another dozen years.


Gemma 10 months - Adopted as paraplegic since birth

I have had Gemma since she was about 3 weeks old. She and 2 siblings were found in a cardboard box on the porch of an abandoned house near my community by someone I didn't know. That "someone" got the kittens to one of my clients (I am a professional pet sitter and dog walker) who has fostered nearly 150 kittens. She asked me if I could take them for "a few days" since she had commitments and couldn't be home to care for them. So I took them and ended up keeping them because I was so happy to be caring for them--it was intensely satisfying. The two other kittens were not disabled, but Gemma was and I knew from the beginning that I would keep her just because I had already fallen in love with her.

Gemma was born with rear paralysis. Neither of her legs have any muscle function and are flaccid. I took her in because I fell in love with her immediately and felt that being a physical therapist and having worked with humans with the same disabilities I would be better prepared for caring for her and understanding the issues that she may have. Gemma can't use her back legs, but she handles that by propelling herself forward. She sits upright while doing this, not stretched out on her tummy. She is like a little Tarzan with her upper body. She has great strength in her arms and body (core)! She also is incontinent of bladder and bowel and needs help with this. She wears a diaper and doesn't have accidents, but does leak sometimes. I express her bladder/bowel 3 times a day.

I buy many maxi pads to put in the diapers. I have also put Gemma on a raw diet which is more expensive than normal off-the-shelf cat food. Also I am monitoring her pH of urine, buying test strips, and adding a cranberry supplement to her food to help the pH become more acidic to prevent urinary tract infections.

I was very lucky that the vet did not instantly say to euthanize Gemma. She (the vet) seemed very interested in having her live out her life.

It is stressful at times. Gemma has had some medical issues that have seemed overwhelming during the course of her short life and I have been sitting down to cry not knowing what to do. Support, and the help of others with disabled kitties has been the huge help that I needed so much. The Facebook group, Cats with Paralysis and Mobility Issues, and the people who participate there have been godsends for me and have helped immensely numerous times. They are wonderful!

Disabled animals really do not know that they are anything but normal. They are appreciative of the care they get. They are loving and wonderful. They love their lives! Keeping Gemma has been more than worth it for me. I have learned so much and found a new love in the world. I would consider having another disabled animal, even over a "normal" one now. A great love I have found! AND I feel that I have many new friends from the Facebook group. This has been an adventure I wouldn't trade for anything.


Janine Murphy 
Cloey Isabella Murphy 6 yrs - Cerebellar Hypoplasia 

Cloey Bella came from a rescue. She was sequestered in a cage with food and her kitty litter box. I was told she had a cold and needed to be kept away from the other kittens. She did have a real bad cold but I think looking back now, it was to protect her since she was wobbling when walking. I had no idea Cloey had any issues when I got her. I brought her home thinking she was "normal" I found she had balance issues as I spent more time with her.

She falls over when going to the bathroom and misses jumps far away. She uses steps to get on the bed and a low kitty litter box. I spend a lot of money on pee pads and cat shampoo. Also I use a live in pet sitter when I leave the house for any length of time other than the eight hour day I am at work. It costs more but worth it. I am also fortunate to have a vet that knows about her condition and I spend a bit of time cleaning her and the kitty box more than a " normal" kitty.

I never set out to adopt a disabled kitty. As I said before I had no idea she had CH. Why should people adopt a disabled kitty? They have so much love! While I am not physically disabled, my depression leaves me mentally disabled. Cloey is part of my ongoing therapy. Before I got her, I was ready to give up. The fact I have a disabled kitty that depends on me, keeps me going.

Who rescued who takes on a whole different meaning when the human needs to be rescued.

Cheri from Cortez, Colorado
June 2 yrs - Adopted with missing half of rear legs, cause unknown

My vet called me and asked if I would take her. She was found by a lady named Wendy who moved into a rented house about 1-1/2 years ago and found June living outside under the garden shed. June was semi-feral, and missing both back legs, halfway down. One leg was reasonably healed. The other healed and got bad again, several times. June needed surgery and an inside home. Wendy could not care for her but didn't want to euthanize her, so asked the vet to find her a home. My vet knew I have had several special needs cats (currently: 3 with heart murmurs, one with severe food allergies, a bunch of former ferals that have to be in after medical issues and/or injuries) and would take June to get the medical care she needs. I live in a remote rural area so my cats and I have to go to the University of Colorado vet school for specialty care.

I called around and arranged funding for her surgeries before I agreed to take her. However, she has had way more surgeries than planned, so I have probably spent another $1500 on her needs plus the travel costs for two 3-day trips to northern Colorado. However, several of my cats have been horrifically expensive -- way more than June. This is how I chose to spend my extra money.... some people go on cruises or buy expensive clothes or go out to restaurants and movies a lot. I just pay for cat medical care.

After 5 months and 3 surgeries to try to get her worse leg to heal, she had to have one back leg amputated. But now she is very healthy and happy! She gets around just fine.... she walks by balancing on her front two legs and barely touches down when needed with the stump of her remaining back leg. When she wants to move fast, she gallops. I bought her a special cat tree with lots of levels that she can climb easily. She loves it -- she likes to hang out on the very top level. She also has a couple of pet staircases so she can get easily up on the bed and couch, and strategically placed stools so she can get on the bathroom counter.

June is very rewarding.... she is SOO happy. The only thing that really gets to me is when one of my cats is at the end of his or her life, and I am trying to find the balance between doing everything that I can to help vs. keeping the cat alive too long for my needs and not his/hers. By taking in a disabled animal you know you are doing the right thing and REALLY helping. Some cats don't need a special owner. Some do. I am happy to volunteer -- this is what I choose to do. June has absolutely been worth it!

Barbara Hipps
Fluffy 8 yrs - Adopted as paraplegic due to spinal trauma

Fluffy was disabled when she came here. She got caught by a closing door that broke her spine when she was about two months old, and I took her in at the age of four months old. My son brought her home because he knew that she would die if she remained where she was and knew that I would take care of her. I never considered adopting a disabled animal and wouldn’t have had it not been for my son bringing her home. She cannot jump or walk properly and is incontinent. The only thing special, is that she needs help relieving her bladder and bowels and has to have both manually expressed which I do at least three times a day. She also wears diapers in case of dribbling. Not only do the diapers protect our furniture and carpets, they protect her from carpet burns as she slides along, leaning to one side. When she was about six months old, my regular vet’s partner asked if I really wanted to take on the commitment since she was so young and it wasn’t like I had her a long time so wasn’t very attached. I informed her that I had no intention of putting her down and later filed a complaint with my regular vet. I have never considered euthanizing her.

Fluffy is really no additional cost since instead of using a litter box, I express her onto puppy training pads which are about $10 for a pack of 50. I also buy baby wipes to clean her bottom and she has a good supply of washable diapers. I was buying disposable baby diapers before getting the cloth ones. It only takes an extra few minutes a day to take care of her. I feel that taking care of a disabled pet forms a special bond with that pet.


Olive 7 months - Four leg paralysis due to possible storage disease 
(Official diagnosis pending)

I got Olive at 12 weeks old and I was her 4th home. A friend of mine begged me to take her because her mom was going to return her to the original owners who did not take care of her! When she came to live with me she could walk but her front legs were wobbly and her back feet rolled under so that she walked on the tops of her back feet. At 14 weeks her left front leg began to get very weak to the point she stopped using it. At 17 weeks the right front leg followed. Her back legs stayed the same but are still weak and her feet roll. Now all she can do is scoot like a little chugging train. She can not use the box, but she will use pee pads most of the time. I kept her because her mind is GREAT!! She is super smart and she tries SO hard. She is my inspiration, and I fell in love with her very quickly!! At night she goes in a playpen with pee pads and her food and water, and a zillion toys! During the day I watch her and let her go where she pleases! I put her on the pee pad every hour or so and tell her to go potty, sometimes she get angry because I am bossing her but she goes! I LOVE her little temper!!

I have spent about $1200 dollars on her with 4 different vets, and one vet specialist. Only one vet was negative and said I should probably put her down. I NEVER considered it!! Her mental capacity was very good!!!! The neurologist said that she was genetic and that she was missing the gene that distributed (feeds) the protein and glucose to parts of the body to keep them healthy and strong. In Olives case, her muscles and nerves were not getting the nutrition needed to keep her limbs strong. I give her supplements daily to help with her condition.

It can be stressful to care for them in the beginning but you get a routine that works for you and your kitty and their disability. It all becomes 2nd nature and no big deal. They try so hard to do right and are soooo happy when they accomplish something new. It fills your heart with such an indescribable joy to see them so happy that they did it!!! They know what they want and they never give up!!! If you ever have the chance to love a disabled pet, it will change your outlook and your perspective on what is truly important in life!! They are true little in the rough!! I so would do it again, I would be lost without her, and I always look forward to the adventures of tomorrow.

Ashley Clark Alton, NH 
Wobbles 3 yrs - Mild Cerebellar Hypoplaysia (Known as CH)

I have had Wobbles since he was 12 weeks old. I work at a non-profit humane society in NH, Wobbles was one of our kittens there. I fell in love with him the moment I saw him! It wasn’t until a few weeks later that I knew he was mine, I think I realized it much later than all my coworkers did! 

Wobbles came to the shelter with his litter and mother when he was between 6-8 weeks old, completely normal. It wasn’t until a few days later that he developed very acute and sudden symptoms (literally overnight!) We are still unsure of what caused the neurological condition (poisoning, developed CH late, trauma, etc.) and there was a laundry list of conditions before we narrowed in on CH. Euthanasia was considered while he was at the shelter; more so because no one had any idea what was wrong with him or if he was suffering. His vivacious appetite and steady progression is what saved his life, along with me pleading to allow me to take him home.

Wobbles has mild Cerebellar Hypoplasia. I fell in love with him after seeing his determination, and how he was adapting to his very sudden disability. I would have considered him a severe CH kitty at first; unable to hold his head up, let alone walk. The staff was terrified he was going to drown in his water bowl! I cried the first time he was successfully able to walk; it was at that point that I knew he was mine. He isn’t able to jump very well, loses his balance frequently, has intention tremors and has absolutely zero depth perception. Some low and wide food dishes, cat furniture that isn’t as tall and tempting for him to climb and carpet throughout (especially the stairs).

Sometimes it can be stressful because I worry he is going to hurt himself. He constantly tests his limitations and doesn’t always think things through before acting upon them! But, knock on wood, no significant injuries. And as he has a mild case of CH, no more time consuming than other cats. Cats with disabilities have so much love to give! Wobbles is truly my baby. Watching him overcome and defeat the most part of his disability is an awe-inspiring event!