Adopting & Caring for a Deaf, Blind or Special Needs Cat

Dr. Ragen T.S. McGowan, PhD
By Dr. Ragen T.S. McGowan, PhD
Updated: 5/10/20242-4 minutes
Special needs black cat

It’s true a special needs cat can have challenges that non-disabled felines don’t. For some pet owners, though, these challenges are an opportunity to establish a unique bond with their feline companion.

You may also be surprised to know that, depending on the condition, cats with special needs may not require a great deal of help.

In addition to the normal things you need to do when adopting a feline such as choosing cat food, you may only need to make a few adjustments to your home environment.

Whether it’s caring for blind cat needs or accommodating a three-legged pet, a life with felines with disabilities or health conditions can be a special and rewarding experience.

Here’s an overview of what you should know about providing care.

Special Needs Cat Care

If you want to adopt a pet and have bonded with a special needs cat, find out what is required by you to support them.

Based on their specific disability, your commitment may be relatively minimal. Other conditions may call for more accommodations.

In addition to giving lots of love and support, make sure you’re able to provide for them logistically and financially.

Speak to a veterinarian to find out what you can expect.

Also know there are disabled cat products that may make you and your pet’s lives easier. For example, blind cats might benefit from and enjoy a feeding toy that makes a sound.

For felines whose back limbs are paralyzed, there are fitted carts that can make walking less challenging. Your cat sits in a sling connected to the cart, which supports their back end. To get around, they roll the cart using their front legs.

Caring for Blind Cat Needs

Adopting a blind cat may be easier than you think, as cats already rely on other senses quite a bit anyway.

Sometimes cat owners don’t realize their kitten is blind for a while; behavior like running into objects or having trouble locating things may just seem kitten-like.

When it comes to taking care of a blind cat, consider keeping objects like the feeding dish, water bowls and litter boxes in the same place and eliminate any potential barriers surrounding them. This way, your pet can rely on memory to find what they need.

A few other things you can do to support your blind cat:

· Add a bell to your other pets’ collars

· Use tactile markers throughout your home, such as a textured mat under food and water bowls

· Provide interactive toys that encourage the use of other senses

How to Care for a Deaf Cat

If you’re wondering how to take care of a deaf cat, remember they can still process your body language and rely on other senses like sight and touch to understand your home environment.

In order to keep them safe, it’s best to keep your deaf cat indoors. Otherwise, they can be more vulnerable to dangerous situations and threats like oncoming traffic.

You also want to avoid startling them. When providing deaf cat care, announce your presence when necessary if they can’t see you. If you clap your hands or stomp on the floor, your pet will feel the vibrations and know you’re nearby.

As for training, visual cues and hand signals will come in handy. Some deaf cats have even been trained to understand sign language.

Even though they can’t hear, deaf cats can lead normal, healthy lives.

Caring for a Cat with a Physical Deformity

The most common physical deformity cats experience is the loss of a limb.

Luckily, in many ways, the lives of three-legged felines can be similar to other cats. Even with a missing limb, felines can have an impressive sense of balance.

The biggest challenge with a cat like this is maintaining a healthy weight, so they don’t put additional stress on their joints. Minimizing the risk of arthritis is especially important in our three legged friends, so it’s important to meet their nutritional needs. Ask your veterinarian if there are any special dietary requirements.

Keeping your pet indoors, away from potential hazards, is also a good idea. Inside, block off areas like stairs that may be dangerous to navigate.

Special Needs Cat Care – Other Conditions

Heart Problems

Some cats have a genetic predisposition to heart problems such as cardiomyopathy.

The age of onset varies widely. If your cat develops heart problems at a young age, you can still help them live a full and healthy life.

To make things more comfortable and minimize stress, you can provide your cat with a calm, secure space in your home, away from other pets and kids.

Of course, also be sure to check in with your veterinarian regularly.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

Similar to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), FIV attacks a cat’s immune system. This makes them more prone to other infections.

FIV is slow-acting, so it may take years for symptoms to appear. If your cat has FIV, there’s plenty you can do before and after the disease takes hold.

Keep your cat indoors to minimize stress and exposure to other diseases, and make sure your cat is spayed and neutered. It’s possible the disease may remain dormant forever in an infected cat, but take note of all changes in health and behavior and see a veterinarian regularly.

Another important note: While cats can’t spread FIV to humans, the disease is contagious among felines. If you already have healthy cats in your home, consider keeping them separated or exploring other adoption options.

Adopting a special needs cat is a fulfilling, unique experience. Remember, whether it’s caring for blind cat needs or providing deaf cat care, your veterinarian can answer any questions about how to support your pet.

For more health tips from our experts, visit our Pet Expertise page.

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