Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Truth About Living With Pets With Disabilities - Resources & Interviews

You might know me as Meridas mom, from Saved Merida/Daily Merida. If you don't, you can always go to her website and read up on Merida and her condition/struggles at http://www.savedmerida.com

People have heard me talk about how it is owning Merida, and all I do for her in previous interviews. (links to interviews are on her website) Since my opinion is out there and I have shown my voice about having a pet with a disability, I thought maybe getting a couple different perspectives might bring some more light on the subject, and serve as education for people who are unaware of life with a disabled pet. This way you can't say I am bias, or just saying "it's really nothing at all to care for Merida". So I bring you an interview with one person who took their disabled pet in, knowing the cats disability. Then another whose beloved pet got an injury of unknown origin, and changed their life forever.

An interview with Holly & Ropa:

What is Ropas disability, and how did you come to decide to keep her?

Ropa is paraplegic. She has no use of her back legs or bladder. When I found her, I was living in a country that does not have the same culture that Americans or other countries do about cats/pets. I took her to a vet, to have her euthanized - that is what you do with a three week old cat that can't walk. Dr. Lisa wanted to give her a few days on pred. I stopped by everyday to check on "Hope". She was lively, hungry, and playful. When Dr. Lisa decided it was time to euthanize Hope, I cried in the University Parking lot where I was going to school and told her no. The fantastic staff at the office encouraged me to take her home. When I did… 

I started calling her "Hope Rope-A-Dope". Such the fighter, like Muhammad Ali! Her name became Ropa. 

Having Ropa has somewhat altered your life I know, but I heard you actually take her TRAVELING with you! Tell me about that.

You would not believe the funny and great stories we have from traveling with her. Being in the Tokyo airport bringing her back to the states and expressing her in the bathroom. The lady next door flushes, she is hovering my hands over the toilet and turns into a spinning top. Pee everywhere! Total sprinkler. Hilarious!! Having a sense of humor is an essential quality to owning one of these kids!!

We have to take Ropa with us, can't find a squeezer she won't fire. #1: We won't be able to leave the country for the entire course of her life. Huge logistics nightmare to travel with her. I could get her where we want to go, but is a vet there going to give a Health Cert to get her home?? I am terrified to chance that. #2: Traveling with her is expensive. $125 for flight plus the cost of pet friendly hotels. Again: we have to be back to squeeze her and day trips are always cut short. #3: Constantly telling people who want to vaca with us that the cats has to be in the equation. Logistically frustrating. 

Do you think you and Ropa have a 'special kind of bond'?

If you have to squeeze a cat three times a day, there has to be a level of mutual respect. I have always had multiple pets and adored them all, but...the relationship that Ropa and I share is much more personal on some level. We made a commitment to trust each other. We call her our "cat-dog". Because of our relationship, she is more like a dog. She wants to know what I am doing, she wants to be with me. She sleeps in my arms, under the covers, every night. What cat does that? When I roll over, I pick her up and put her on the other side, and she snuggles in and goes back to sleep. Co-dependent much, LOL! The payout is the relationship, and that is priceless. I wouldn't change a thing and I am fortunate to have a husband who fell in love with her like I did and supports me and accommodates her as much as is necessary.

For Ropas full story, please see her website http://www.angelfire.com/me2/catsNglass/CWP/RopasStory.html

An interview with Danna & Pip:

Did you have to change your life around much after Pip’s accident to accommodate her new way of life? 

Yes. I don’t go away for weekends anymore and don’t really feel I can make spur-of-the-moment plans, although friends have offered to look after her for a night or two, and she’d probably be fine. She used to come to work with me (pet-friendly office) two or three times a week, but now I keep it to one, if that, because it takes more planning—her litter box takes up more space; the tinned food she now eats isn’t necessarily what my coworkers want to smell—and because I worry more when she wanders the corridors. I go home most days at lunch to check on her.

Much of my early-morning writing time is lost because I’m no longer comfortable putting her out in the walled yard on a lead (she has a 20 lead) to play with her dog-friend or just explore in general. Part of that is because I worry she’ll get tangled and sustain new injury; part of it is because one day, I happened to glance out into the yard and saw her having a staring contest with the largest red-tailed hawk I’ve ever seen. “Prey!” said Pip’s face; “Prey!” said the raptor’s face; “[Unprintable words here]!” said I. In other words, I spend more time now standing guard over her and entertaining her. Because we live in a small house with an open floor plan, there isn’t any way for me to go into another room and shut a door to be alone.

Has Pip’s demeanour changed at all, or is she still the Pip you knew before her accident?

She is still very much Pip, social and curious and chatty and very, very straightforward about her wants and needs. That’s both wonderful and problematic, because, as I say, she wants to run about outside, and she wants to climb things (and jump off them: eep). Unless she actually tries to jump up after something (a moth, a leaf, my hair) and finds she can’t do so, she seems oblivious to her physical changes. She purrs like mad and eats as much as ever and remains persnickety about grooming.

She’s really quite something.

How aware were you about cats with disabilities and what it took to be their guardian before Pip’s accident?

I’d volunteered for years at a no-kill shelter, so I’d had contact with blind cats, deaf cats, and three-legged cats, but I’d never before met a paralyzed cat, nor did I know anyone who’d ever had one. As it turns out, I knew nothing. Possibly less than nothing.

Has it been hard with all the new adjustments to your lifestyle since Pip’s accident?

It has. It’s been less than a year, so perhaps it gets easier. Certainly I have a support system in place that helps keep me sane, the Facebook group called Cats With Paralysis and Mobility Challenges, even if it is web-based contact. I’m also hoping that bringing in a second cat for companionship—my lease allows me two cats—will take a little of the dance-and-sing stress off me. Mostly, though, I worry. A lot. Like this: What if I’m projecting, and she’s not really happy? What if she’s in terrible pain, and I just can’t tell? Is she lonesome? Should I be doing more physiotherapy with her? Is her diet really OK? Am I doing everything I could be to ensure her health?

Does it feel like you and Pip are more bonded now than you used to be before her accident?

This is a tricky question, because we were already pretty bonded. As I say, she came to work with me, charmed the socks off my coworkers, etc. The main difference now is that she tolerates and seems to understand the necessity for certain new things, such as occasional help in the box, or wet washcloths to clean her tail and back paws when needed. She’ll come ask to be lifted onto, say, the top of a bookcase, which remains a favourite spot. And I feel more protective of her than I have of other pets.

For more of Danna & Pips story, as well as stories from other actual disabled pet owners, please go here. I got an overwhelming outpour from the loving people who own pets with disabilities when I asked for just a couple of people. You have GOT to read these incredible, loving, stories of strength!

Owning a disabled cat does not mean you watch it just lie there, and that you are forever cleaning up endless cat urine or poop. There ARE products and groups out there to help you and your disabled cat live a healthy, happy, and CLEAN life in harmony.

Resourceful Links:

Cats with paralysis & mobility challenges FB page - These people are incredible for advice, support, and ideas. (They do not supply medical advice, that is left to a vet)
FancyPants Website - These should be the diapers of ALL kitties with incontinence issues 5 Stars
Cats with Cerebellar Hypoplaysia FB page - They have adoptable Ch kitty listings by state/country. The people here are some of the MOST creative people I have ever had the pleasure of getting to know. They craft the coolest stuff for their 'wobbly' cats to help them get around.
Pets with Disabilities Website - A list of adoptable pets with their disability listed, as well as resources for wheelchairs and more.
Leggings 4 Life - Pretty kitty stockings to protect your cats legs from getting damaged by rug burn, scrapes, etc if they drag their legs.
Dog Locomotion - Creating wheels for dogs, rabbits, and cats with mobility issues. If your cat could benefit from a cart to gain more mobility, check these guys out.
Friends of Feline Rescue Center - A non-profit, cage free, no-kill feline care facility that aims to educate , and has a 24hr live camera feed to watch! (How great!)
Forever Home Feline Ranch - A non profit, no kill, home for special kitties. They stay here until adopted.


  1. No one commented yet?? I am sharing this post wherever I can - it is vital, amazing and important!

  2. Thanks for the comment and sharing! It really is important. Trying so hard to spread the word.