Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: June 26, 2023 by Crystal Uys
Written by Cynthia Chomos, Catio Spaces
Every cat is special. Some are extra special. Cats born with chronic physical or medical conditions, or who encounter challenges in their lifetime through disease, lost limbs, deafness or blindness, are considered special needs cats.
While it can take longer for shelters to find them a forever home, many big-hearted cat lovers are adopting these special cats or helping through donations and sponsorship programs. At their core, cats with challenges have the same instincts and basic needs as any cat. Many are unaware of their disability and have the resiliency to live purrfectly normal lives.
Every cat needs a stimulating indoor environment for a healthy and happy life. Cats are also curious about the outdoors. As a catio designer and founder of Catio Spaces, I’ve had the joy of working with cat parents with special needs cats, including those with cerebellar hypoplasia and amputees, so they can enjoy the enrichment of a catio (an enclosed outdoor “cat patio”) specifically designed for their mobility issues.
Meet Rosemary and Boots – CH Cats
Adopted and living on a houseboat in Seattle, Rosemary and Boots were born with cerebellar hypoplasia (CH), a rare congenital condition that causes kittens to have underdeveloped physical coordination. Because the condition is fairly uncommon, people often grimace when they first see these cats move, fearing they’re in pain. The condition is not painful, contagious or progressive, and mild to moderate CH cats often live very normal lives. Such is the life of Rosemary and Boots, with moderate mobility, who have adapted well to their indoor and outdoor living spaces.
Take a tour of their colorful catio that was custom designed for a CH cat’s mobility.
Catios come in a variety of designs, sizes and shapes that can be adapted for special needs cats. Among accommodations are ramps, railings, foam tile flooring for soft landings, and rugs for gripping. For ease of access into a catio, large cat doors can be installed in a wall, door or window, with the door flap taped open during catio time. The smell of fresh air and the sounds of nature will beckon any curious cat to explore their new territory while keeping them safe and comfortable.
Meet Mini – the Tripawd “Hitchhiker”
After riding 5 miles under the hood of my client’s car, 8-week-old Mini was heard meowing inside the garage when she returned home one day. Curious and lifting up the hood to discover a hot pawed kitty (who was already missing a hind leg), Mini was immediately soothed with cool water – and was clearly destined to find his human mom. In fact, it was love at first sight.
As if Mini’s comfy new home wasn’t enough to give roots to his wandering ways, his new digs include an outdoor catio haven for exercise, bird watching, catnaps and basking in the sun. Active and agile on three legs, his catio was designed to include a ramp, a spacious landing shelf and several 1”x12” cedar shelves for horizontal and vertical movement. Despite Mini’s harrowing trip to his new home, it was well worth the ride.
Are you interested in learning more about the benefits of catios?
Catio Spaces offers free catio tips for keeping your cat safe and stimulated while outdoors. Custom catios and a variety of DIY catio plans are available for a window, deck, patio or yard that can accommodate any sized cat family. 10% of DIY plan purchases are donated to animal welfare organizations.
Interested in adopting a special needs cat?
Contact your local shelter to learn more. If you are unable to adopt, consider sponsoring a special needs cat. Many shelters accept donations and offer programs for as little as $15 month that include a certificate, cat photo, bio and updates on your sponsored cat. Sponsorships also make great gifts for the cat lover in your life.
Every cat deserves a forever home – and every cat is special, sometimes in extraordinary ways.
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Cynthia Chomos is a passionate cat lover and catio designer who founded Catio Spaces to create visually appealing enclosures and DIY catio plans to enhance the lives of cats and their humans.
About the author
Ingrid King is an award-winning author, former veterinary hospital manager, and veterinary journalist who is passionate about cats.