What we know about special needs pets is that they are pets who need us; what we find is we need them too. And, they are special in the way that they love us.
Five years ago, Izzy, a flame-point Siamese-Manx mix entered Lakewood’s Angels with Paws shelter for the third time.
Another family had failed her.
Even though this happens to thousands of animals everyday, Izzy’s story is different and her adoption process was even more difficult.
See, Izzy is not like every other cat you find in a shelter. For her, getting adopted was incredibly difficult because of her special needs.
Izzy has a condition that requires human assistance for two very basic and critical functions – peeing and pooping. Without human assistance, she would have died as a kitten, as most do.
“Izzy was taken back in part because of urine-leaking,” said LuAnn Pierce, founder of Colorado Companion Animal Sanctuary.
Manx Syndrome (MS) in cats is described as a disease that affects the animal’s nervous system, disabling the cat from evacuating their bowel and bladder properly. Some have symptoms of feline spina bifida and/or megacolon. Others may have difficulty walking, and most walk and run more like a bunny than a cat.
Since Izzy had been taken back for the third time, Angels with Paws had decided to not put her up for adoption because of her special needs. They were willing to provide her with the love and care she needs for the rest of her life.
LuAnn visited Angels with Paws one day hoping to adopt a pair of kittens. When LuAnn arrived Izzy spotted her, went straight to her shoulder and started to purr.
“I want this cat!” LuAnn said.
“This cat isn’t up for adoption, she has special needs,” one shelter worker told LuAnn.
Eventually, they worked out a plan for LuAnn and her husband, Chris, to come to the shelter every other day for a month to learn how to care for Izzy. The learning curve is steep, but they managed to learn the basics. Practice is definitely the best way to perfect the art of “expressing a cat”.
“Some cats with MS are unable to expel any urine or feces on their own. In other cases, the cats leave a trail of urine and feces due to lack of muscle control,” LuAnn said.
They are constantly at risk of impaction and/or blockage, or chronic colitis and bladder infections that can kill. In some cases, this happens even though humans are assisting everyday.
In order to prevent these problems, human assistance is needed, according to the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare. LuAnn and Chris offer that help for Izzy and five others at CCAS.
LuAnn knew from the moment Izzy climbed on her shoulder that she would give this cat a very ‘special’ life. “Izzy came at a time when I needed emotional support to heal from multiple losses. Izzy provided that and more.”
Izzy had a special gift for Chris when he met her the first time. She had been out for a walk on her leash with a volunteer where she had some grass for a snack. When Chris put her on his shoulder, she threw up on him – thankfully, he has a good sense of humor!
Izzy has been under the care of LuAnn and Chris for five years now. Every day they help Izzy pee up to three times and poop once or twice. She is used to it, but still fusses about it sometimes.
“We call it squeezing the cat,” LuAnn laughed. She implied that it isn’t anyone’s favorite part of the day, including Izzy’s, but it is what needs to be done in order for Izzy to live her life. “It takes about five minutes a day – up to ten if she is constipated. Not much to ask for what she has to offer.”
Izzy’s disability is compromised by her ability to be a little “oxytocin machine” who just gives out love bombs all day.
Izzy knows that without LuAnn and Chris, she wouldn’t survive; LuAnn knows without Izzy, life just wouldn’t be the same.
According to Google’s definition, the word special is defined as to be better, greater, or otherwise different from what is usual.
These relationships are special. The ones where you find better in the unusual. The ones where your life becomes more peculiar but your animals don’t know the difference because that is their life. That is special. That is needed.
Colorado Companion Animal Sanctuary is a non-profit organization that prides itself on fulfilling the lives of animals with special needs. If you are interested, there are many more cats like Izzy who especially need you in their life, and offer something better than usual in return.
You can provide this to a cat if you are willing to learn and have a heart for the better, special things in life. Feel free to contact LuAnn to learn more at 303-910-2425 or firstname.lastname@example.org.