Animals with Special Needs
Every living organism has the same basic needs to ensure survival; water, nutrients, air and shelter. Beyond this, there are further needs that aid in the quality of life, such as love. This love comes with understanding and support and manifests in different ways between different species, populations and individuals.
However, beyond these general requirements, individuals have also unique needs shaped by their personal experiences. Just like humans, these needs may display differently in animals, from mental health needs to physical abnormalities, which both impact the quality of life and thus the required care of each individual. Today, we will be talking about the latter, and how this may vary between individuals with “special needs”.
Animals with special needs may present with certain disabilities or conditions that are acquired, present from birth or develop over time. Examples of these could be anything from missing limbs, blindness or lifelong skin issues, conditions we’ve seen here at Pets for Life on numerous occasions. In any of these cases, animals are usually able to quickly adapt to their new normal, especially with support from caretakers.
Take Captain, for example, a small black kitten that came to us with a damaged eye when he was not even two months old. It didn’t require any treatment, yet naturally closed, leaving him partially blind. Despite this change, Captain blossomed into an active cat always ready to climb and play with his adopted siblings. He needs some extra attention on the closed up eye to keep it from getting infected, but Captain has been lucky enough to find a home that is able to help care for this added need, and we know Captain will show them how appreciative he is daily.
This added effort is usually dramatised in perceptions when people think of animals with special needs, especially those that end up in shelters. And yes, whilst it is an added responsibility for a caretaker, it varies between animals and conditions, and usually, people find that it is worth it. Extra care comes with extra love, after all.
In fact, an increase in pet priority and modern advances in design and technology are making assisting an animal with special needs increasingly easier. There are countless products made to aid specific conditions in animals, as well as better a connection to global manufacturers that enable custom features to be easily developed. Veterinary care also is progressing with increasing research and information that is supporting longer life expectancy in all pets. Screening and other detection methods of diseases and conditions are also developing to detect potential disorders before they show, helping to treat or reduce their impact before an animal’s quality of life is drastically impacted. This means that we, and our animals, are lucky enough to live in a time that different needs do not automatically equate to an added burden, but merely a shift in priority.
Another special needs example is our beloved Leyla, a cat that has been at our shelter for over nine months now. She has been diagnosed with a skin condition that may require lifelong injections to allow her comfort. Despite the tireless work from volunteers and the vet, with different foods and medications, the injections have proven to be the only method that assists her quality of life in our shelter right now. And for a cat like Leyla, their daily comfort takes priority over eliminating the issue entirely. Actually, it takes priority over all else. This is the case for any animal. Improving the quality of life of animals should always be the main priority for any person who cares for animals.
This can be done in a number of ways. You don’t need to adopt or be the owner of a special needs animal to help them. Supporting your local animal shelter or organisations that specialise in the care of special needs animals is a great way to start, whether that’s by donations or spreading the word about the great work they are doing. Learning more about how extra needs impact both caretakers and the individual animal also develops your understanding and ability to further share information with others. If you are a foster carer or considering becoming one, consider fostering one animal with special needs over a litter of kittens. This will usually require no extra work from you and allows an animal to get the treatment most beneficial to them that a shelter mightn’t be able to give directly. And finally, always remember that every animal is a valid animal when supported and loved in the way they need.
If you do have the extra time or resources that may be helpful or necessary to caring for one of these lovely pets, contact Jean at 0403533589