3 Things NOT to Say to a Special Needs Pet Parent

As a “mom” to special needs cats, I am pretty used to the myriad of reactions I get from people when they see or hear about Sophie or Sassy. Some are positive and excited, some are inquisitive and interested, some are confused and unsure, and some are just downright rude. Believe me, I’ve heard it all. I’m aware that many people may not realize they are being rude when they ask the questions they ask or say the things they say. I just wish they would take a second to think before they speak. Being a special needs pet parent isn’t always easy, and it’s not made any easier by rude people.

3 Things NOT to Say to a Special Needs Pet Parent

1. “What’s wrong with your cat?”

This is probably the most common question I get, usually in reference to Sophie and her wobbly walk. Most of the time the question is harmless; however, other times it is asked in a snide tone of voice. No matter the implied tone of the question, the answer is always the same – to me, there is absolutely nothing wrong with my cat. She is just different. She has a special feature called cerebellar hypoplasia!

What could you say instead? Try, “Why does your cat walk like that?” or “Does your cat have an injury or special condition?” Or just lose the rude tone of voice.

Don’t get me wrong, I love when people ask me about Sophie. It gives me an opportunity to educate and raise awareness for CH cats and special needs animals in general. I just wish that people would be more tactful about the way they ask.

2. “Poor thing…”

There is absolutely no need to feel sorry for Sophie. She was born the way she is and doesn’t know any different. High-stepping, walking in curvy lines, head bobs, and randomly falling over are her normal. She doesn’t let these things bother her, so why should they bother you? Sophie is actually one of the happiest animals I’ve ever known. She is loved, she is well cared for, she can do anything she puts her mind to, and she is spoiled rotten. There is nothing poor or pitiful about her. I am also not cruel for giving her the wonderful life she has.

Please stop assuming that because Sophie has CH and walks funny that she is miserable, or that I am a terrible person for making her “suffer” through life. The only suffering Sophie knows is that of a “hungry” kitty who wishes she was fed 10 times a day instead of just 3 😉

3. “Why bother?”

Milton and Me
Milton & Me

I get that some people don’t understand why anyone would care for a special-needs animal. It’s true, they generally do require at least a bit of extra care and attention and may not live as long. When there are so many “normal” pets out there that need homes, why choose to adopt one that is sick, disabled, or just “different?” The answer is simple. These sick, disabled, and “different” pets need homes and love just as much as, if not more than, all the “normal” ones.

When we adopted Milton last summer, with all of his birth defects and issues, knowing that we probably wouldn’t have much time with him, a coworker asked me why I would choose to adopt him, saying that I was just setting myself up for heartbreak. I knew that I was most likely going to end up with a broken heart. But it wasn’t about me. It was about him. Milton needed a loving home. He deserved a loving home. Sure, Milton didn’t make it more than a week with us, and yes, my heart was shattered when he passed. But it was worth it. Being able to give Milton the the home he deserved, knowing that he left this earth loved, and getting to experience Milton’s sweet love was well worth the heartbreak at the end.

I’m not saying all of this to make it seem like I’m some amazing person for adopting special-needs cats. Because I’m not. I’m just a regular person who happens to understand something that everyone should understand: that those who are disabled or different deserve love too.

So why do I bother? Because special-needs animals are awesome. They will brighten your home, teach you life lessons, and give more love than you could ever imagine.

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By Emily