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Caring for a Disabled Cat

Caring for a disabled cat can be a challenge for its human companions. The degree of disability and whether the disability is permanent or temporary can affect how much of an impact caring for the disabled cat will have on your household. Some disabilities can come on gradually, such as the hearing or vision loss associated with older cats. Other disabilities have a much more abrupt onset, often as a result of a serious illness or accident.

Caring for a disabled cat that has a disability that has come on gradually can require almost unnoticeable changes in care. You may notice that your aging cat has begun to walk closer to the walls as he enters a room, which can be a sign of diminishing eyesight. An older cat slowly developing hearing loss may come less frequently when called. If your cat begins to show signs of vision problems, it is important to try to keep the floor areas of your home as clutter- and obstacle-free as possible. Avoid rearranging furniture if you can, since cats losing their vision will rely on their memory of where thing are to maneuver through a room. If your cat begins to show signs of developing a disability and he has previously been an indoor/outdoor cat, begin decreasing the amounts of time he spends outdoors, for his own safety.

Caring for a disabled cat that has experienced an acute-onset disability can be quite different. It is important to remember that the cat may not understand the full extent of his limitations, and it is up to his human companions to help keep him safe. If your cat’s disability requires him not to jump, keep him confined to a room with only low surfaces. If he cannot climb stairs, either be prepared to provide him with assistance or, more realistically, build a ramp or place a baby gate at the appropriate end of the stairs and ensure everything he needs (especially food, water, and litter box) are on the same floor as the cat.

Cats can be very resilient animals, but sudden onset disability can be frightening to them. When caring for a disabled cat, provide him with plenty of affection and positive attention. As he adjusts to his disability, however, be sure you are forcing him to become as independent as possible. Avoid carrying a cat with an amputated leg everywhere; he needs to learn to walk on his own. Likewise, a cat that has suddenly lost his vision needs special attention, but also needs to find his way to his food and water, as well as his litter box, based on his sense of smell and his memory.

Caring for a disabled cat may require patience, knowledge, and special accommodations. Depending on the needs of the cat, you may need to change and update these accommodations as the needs of your cat change. Most owners of disabled cats report that the animals are quite adept at becoming accustomed to and overcoming their own disabilities in order to lead full and happy lives.