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Special Cats Share a Love In a Special Home

"I have the greatest cats ever. I know everyone with a pet always thinks that about their own animal, but I really do. My search for the perfect cats started about a year ago. I was fresh out of college and had just purchased my first home. I was enjoying my time with my pet rabbits, birds and my two dogs, but I felt like something was missing. I missed having a cat. There's nothing like a warm bundle of fur curled up and purring on your lap while you watch TV. Yep, that's what I needed.

Both of my dogs were adopted from shelters, and I knew I wanted to adopt my cats as well. As I thought about what qualities I wanted in my new family members, my thoughts returned to when I volunteered at the Central Dakota Humane Society in high school. I remembered that they offered special-needs cats for adoption, and I also remembered, sadly, that these cats seemed to wait forever to be adopted. I decided to do some research about special-needs animals and see what kind of special-needs cats were looking for homes at CDHS.

I must have spent hours on the shelter website reading the descriptions and looking at the pictures of the cats up for adoption. The two that leapt out at me the most were T.C. and Cheetos, and I decided to go to the shelter to visit these cats. Upon meeting Cheetos at the shelter, the first thing he did was to attack the shiny necklace I was wearing. I thought perhaps he was too playful to live peacefully with my birds and rabbits, so I focused on T.C. He was the sweetest cat I've ever met, and he stole my heart right away.

T.C. and the other cats in the special-needs area have FIV, or feline immunodeficiency virus. The staff explained to me that FIV is a virus that only affects cats, it is not contagious to me or the non-feline animals in my home. It is passed between cats mostly through biting each other. This virus weakens the cats' immune system and makes it more difficult for them to recover from illnesses. However, if kept in a healthy environment a cat may live symptom-free for its entire life. It may also succumb to the illness at an early age. The staff also told me that T.C. had been at the shelter for four years. I could not imagine how such a wonderful cat could be passed over by potential adopters for so many years. This confirmed what I had noticed earlier as a volunteer - that special needs cats are the least likely to be adopted.

I decided that T.C. was definitely the cat for me, and in a week or so, he came home. He hid for a few days, but he gradually warmed up to me and even my dogs. After a couple weeks I decided to return to the shelter to find T.C. a buddy. I had noticed a new cat named Hendrix and was very interested in adopting him, but unfortunately he wasn't available for adoption at that time. I asked the staff for some suggestions and they suggested Cheetos. I was a little leery because, although I really liked the little guy, he was so playful I feared for the safety of my little animals. They assured me it would be all right and I decided to give him a try. Within an hour of bringing him home I knew he was there to stay. While he did jump at my parrots' cage once, it was only to bat a toy he saw hanging inside. Everything is a toy to Cheetos, his personal favorites being large empty cardboard boxes or giant shopping bags. He always keeps me laughing.

A couple of weeks later I went back to the shelter to finalize my adoption for Cheetos. They told me that Hendrix was now available for adoption, in case I was still interested, which of course I was. I had told myself that two was my limit, but he was just too great. I took him with me that day. I managed to get a collar with a bell on him before he darted out of the crate and under the bed, where he would remain for the next three months. My friends kept teasing me about making up the third cat, but I knew he'd come around. I crammed my head under the bed every day and talked to him, trying to lure him out. I was eventually able to lock him out of the bedroom when he came out to eat, and then he was forced to take up residence under the couch instead. When I would see him out and about, I'd call everyone like I'd just seen the Loch Ness monster. Eventually he warmed up and now he is on my lap every time I sit down. He has also fallen in love with my Labrador mix, Raven. He follows her wherever she goes and snuggles up next to her every time she lies down. I am glad they became such good friends.

My cats are such a blessing in my life and they are the perfect trio. T.C. is the sweet one, Cheetos is the funny one, and Hendrix is the cool one. People who know my cats are amazed they have FIV. They are a very healthy weight, maybe even a little chubby. They are on no medications and act exactly like every other cat in the world, eating, playing and, every cat's favorite thing, sleeping. With the exception of having Cheetos in a couple of times for an ear infection, the only time my cats have been to the vet this past year has been for annual exams and vaccinations. Of course, I do have to keep them inside at all times for their safety, but this is something I would do with any cat. The only other thing I have to make sure I do is to take them to the vet right away if I notice they are ill and the vet has to treat their illnesses aggressively.

It is my hope that by reading this, people will realize that the words 'special needs' are nothing to fear and that these cats make wonderful, loving companions. They can live normal, healthy lives and deserve a home and a family to love them, just like all shelter animals. The next time you or someone you know is looking for a warm bundle of fur of their own, please consider taking a peek at the special-needs cats at CDHS. Who knows, you may find a friend there that has you telling people, 'I have the greatest cat ever.' "