Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: November 1, 2022 by Crystal Uys


Sponsored guest post by Cynthia Chomos, Catio Spaces
This post contains affiliate links*

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.

Exclusive discount for Conscious Cat readers
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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.

FTC Disclosure: This is a sponsored post, which means that I was compensated to feature this content. Regardless of payment received, you will only see products or services featured on this site that I believe are of interest to our readers. The Conscious Cat is an affiliate partner of Catio Spaces. This means that if you decide to purchase through any of our links, we get a small commission. We only spread the word about products and services we’ve either used or would use ourselves.

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9 Comments on Special Needs Cats and Catios

  1. I’m like the lady above. I rarely have money to play the lottery. But I’m so desperate I bought tickets last night. Scared to even check them because if I didn’t win all my rescues will lose their home. I have about 15 special needs cats. A couple that are feral and are not adoptable. And several FIV cats.
    Also trying to find homes for many others before I have to surrender them to a shelter. They won’t do well there.
    If anyone can help me please contact me.
    I love these cats and thought I had time to help them. Now I can’t save them all much longer. My FIV cats have no chance. Anyone willing to take them would be their hero. Debbie
    [email protected]

    • Wish I could help but I have several special needs cats (FIV & CH) and I worry because I’m battling cancer. I pray every day that I can be there for both my indoor cats and my street cats (trap, neuter, release veteran of 15 years). Take it one day at a time. That is what I am doing. Reach out to everyone–especially rescue groups. Ask if the rescue groups can put them online as an independent adoption. Advertise at your vet’s office and ask your vet for assistance. Plead your case with the adoption photos. Keep trying. Pray to St. Francis of Assisi, even if you are not religious.

  2. Rosemary, Boots and Mini are truly special special cats; I’m sure not only because they’ve special needs but mainly because all three have more to give back in love and thankfulness than most people or other cats who’re are normal. And these Catios are awesome not only in their many designs but in the ways that allow special need cats the chance to feel normal and free again. G d Bless all the special need cats.

  3. My dream is to rescue every cat out there. Of course, it’s just a dream. But I often ask myself WHY can’t I win a lottery where the monies can be divided between shelters for cats and St. Jude’s Hospital for Children. My two favorite charities. OK, Lottery, I’m waiting. Kitties and children are in need. At my age, I’m content in life and need nothing for myself.

  4. I love this and that video for the cats with CH was awesome. Want to do a catio when we move later this year.

  5. My best friend has several special needs cats. They are the ones she is always drawn too. She has one with CH, another who was shot in the back and left with her back half paralyzed and one with twisted legs. She has several other that have since passed. Her care for them is one of the things I admire most about her. She has taught me a lot about special needs cats.

  6. It’s been my experience that abused cats can also be considered ‘special needs cats.” Because of their fragile mental state they are likely to be euthanized or left in no kill shelters for the rest of their lives.

    Years ago I was lucky enough to adopt a sweetheart named Cherub. She was 13 years old and she sat in her corner in the shelter obby, stubbornly waiting for her owner to walk through the door and claim her. That would never happen. Cherub’s mistress was in a nursing home, and the remaining relatives lied and claimed she was a dangerous cat. From what I understand she was so violent even Animal Control backed away from her. Cherub hid underneath the bed. That was her safe place, because in she came out the other residents of the house would kick and scream at her. They used brooms and trash bags to torment her.

    A rescue group came and looped a capture stick around her. They took her out of that horrible place. She was terrified and furious. When they took her to the vet Cherub had to be tranquilized through the air holes of the carrier.

    She was lucky that the adoption director at the no-kill shelter took an interest in her. She was lucky that she took such a sweet photo for their website, posing on her own with her forelegs daintily crossed one over the other like a prim little society matron at high tea.

    I took one look and was hooked, even tho the other cats meowed and pawed at me from the time I came to visit her until the time I left. I only had eyes for Cherub. She hardly gave me a glance. I wasn’t the human she was waiting for.

    I don’t want to make this post as long as War and Peace. Suffice to say we had good times, bad times, and then right back to good times as she relaxed and learned to trust me. I live in an apartment building, but if I had a house I would certainly have gotten her a catio. Instead I created a huge indoor kitty condo made out of sturdy Dell computer boxes. I carved out windows with a box cutter, padded the bottoms of the boxes with soft fleece blankets and filled each compartment with toys. Cherub became Samirah (my Entertaining Companion) and she proudly sat, napped, and held court there until she died of s stroke four years later.

    I’m glad Rosemary, Boots and Mini found forever homes. Every cat deserves one.

    • Good point about abused cats also being considered special needs cats. A loving home and patience they certainly deserve. How blessed for you and Cherub to have shared a part of your life journey together through the joys and challenges. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

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