If you’re thinking of adopting a dog or cat with special needs, know that you’re an awesome human being! But there are a few things to consider before you take that step. Here’s how to help ensure the best possible outcome for both you and your new best friend.
When visiting the shelter, many people overlook animals with special needs. From deaf cats to three-legged dogs, animals with disabilities, chronic diseases, and various behavioral issues are languishing at shelters and rescues, just waiting for the right person to come forward and welcome them into their hearts and homes. According to Petfinder, in fact, special needs dogs and cats often wait four times longer to be adopted than their healthy counterparts. Although an animal with special needs might require extra time, attention, and expense, the rewards are great. These animals are as loyal and loving as any other!
Before making the decision to take on a special needs dog or cat, however, it’s important to know what to expect — and what will be expected of you.
First, ask yourself these 5 questions
Before adopting any special needs animal, take the time to look into your heart and honestly answer these questions:
1. Can you afford the additional expense?
2. Are you physically up to caring for the animal?
3. Do you have the patience to accommodate any special equipment, procedures, or setbacks that might come along?
4. Are you ready to make compromises when it comes to making plans, having company over, or going on vacation?
5. Most importantly, can you envision him being healthy and happy in spite of his condition?
If your answers are all a resounding “yes”, you’re ready to proceed.
Contact your local shelter or rescue
Once you have made a firm decision to adopt a special needs dog or cat, contact your local animal shelter or rescue and let them know what you are looking for. These organizations are often all too glad to have the names of prospective adopters they can
call when they find themselves with a blind dog or a diabetic cat, since they are often hard-pressed to find homes for these animals.
And don’t forget about the animals with emotional challenges. Every shelter has dogs or cats with severe separation anxiety or other fear-based behaviors that make them difficult to place in new homes. It may be that you are just the right person for one of
these challenging cases. For example, if you work from home or want the dog or cat with you 24 hours a day as a support animal, his “problem” behavior may not be a problem for you at all.
Every situation is different. You will need to carefully assess the needs of the animal and whether or not you and your family can provide what he needs in terms of care, attention and advocacy.
IT MAY BE THAT YOU ARE JUST THE RIGHT PERSON FOR ONE OF THESE CHALLENGING CASES.
Talk to everyone who will be involved
• If you have others in your household, have a family meeting to make sure everyone is on board, and talk about who will do what in order to meet the needs of the animal.
• Talk to the shelter or rescue staff who have been caring for the dog or cat and know his condition. Get all the information you can about his health status, and how he should be looked after. Be sure the organization is dedicated to the ongoing support of
the animal, even after he comes home with you.
• It’s also a good idea to consult with your veterinarian before the adoption to go over what the dog or cat might need in terms of diet, supplements or medications, exercise, check-ups, possible procedures and tests, hygiene issues, and any predisposition to specific diseases.
By discussing everything with all those who are or will be involved with the animal, you’ll be much better prepared to care for him, and to handle the inevitable complications that come with the territory of having a special needs dog or cat.
Keep in mind that adopting a special needs animal is not for everyone. Many people are too busy and cannot be available to provide the extra support these animals often need every day of the week. And that’s the kind of commitment it takes, day in and day out. But if it’s a promise you can make to one unique creature, you will be rewarded many times over with his love and loyalty. There is no greater gift than looking into the eyes of a dog or cat that depends on you for his continued life and happiness. For this great honor, only special people need apply!