Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Shelter finds home for kitties with disabilities

Arlo, Team don’t realize they’re different

Express Staff Writer

Arlo, a former shelter kitty, leaps for a toy, seemingly uninhibited by his missing front leg.
Express photo by Willy Cook

Arlo doesn’t seem to know he only has three legs, and Team doesn’t seem to know he’s blind.
    Otherwise, they’re just two happy cats that recently found homes, thanks to the Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley.
    Arlo was brought to the shelter last April with a front right leg so badly mangled that it had to be amputated. Team was brought to the shelter in November with eye infections so serious that his eyes had to be removed.
    The disabilities don’t seem to slow either of them down. Arlo can jump with the best of them and Team uses his other senses to help him navigate.
    Shelter personnel are quick to point out that Arlo and Team are exceptions to the type of cats that are brought to the shelter. Most are just normal cats.
    “The reality is that most of the cats that are here are fine and healthy, but the circumstances for their humans changed and that’s what brought them here,” said shelter Executive Director Jo-Anne Dixon.
The shelter currently has about 15 cats waiting for adoption, ranging in age from 7 months to 12 years.

“He doesn’t know about it, so I hope he doesn’t read about it in the paper.”
Meghan Faherty,
Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley

Arlo, now about 9 months old, was adopted out to shelter bookkeeper Meghan Faherty last summer. She describes him as a “handsome orange tabby.” Arlo is one of those somewhat pesky cats who likes to get into things and craves attention.
Before being found with a mangled leg at a campground in Carey, Faherty said, Arlo had apparently been around people before.
“He wasn’t fearful at all,” she said. “He was ridiculously outgoing from the start. He’s pretty good buddies with my dogs. I think he thinks he’s a third dog in the family. He goes on hikes with us, so he’s quite close to us.
    “He doesn’t have any special needs. He gets into all sorts of trouble. It doesn’t slow him down at all. He jumps as well as any cat.”
    Faherty said Arlo seems oblivious to the fact that he’s missing a leg.
    “He doesn’t know about it, so I hope he doesn’t read about it in the paper!”
    Team was brought to the shelter after someone found him in a box on the steps of a church in Carey. He seemed to have been around people, Dixon said.
    “He didn’t seem to be scared,” she said. “He would rub against the cage and want to be petted.”
    Team’s blindness stemmed from severe long-term eye infections that Dixon said had already blinded the cat. As a result, she knew she had to remove the cat’s eyes to prevent further infection.
    “He came in as a stray with a real bad eye infection that had been going on for a long time,” she said. “His eyes had shrunk down to nothing.”
After surgery, Dixon said, Team was quick to start chasing and playing with a small bell.
“He acts like he can see,” she said.
Team was adopted out in early January.
An Internet search shows that blindness in cats is common. It sometimes afflicts kittens such as Team that have bad eye infections, but it’s even more common with older cats whose eyesight deteriorates with age.
The Internet offers lots of helpful information for taking care of a blind cat. It’s best not to move furniture or their food bowls around since they navigate by memory. If there’s another pet in the house, tying a bell to it will help the blind cat locate the other animal. It’s best to talk to the cat before touching it, so as not to startle it.
While both Arlo and Team have their disabilities, shelter personnel point out that neither is a “special needs” cat. Instead, they make the most out of the abilities that they have.
    “These animals are ones that don’t have any hang-ups,” Dixon said. “Arlo doesn’t know he only has three legs and Team doesn’t know that he can’t see.”

Team was brought to the shelter after having been abandoned in Carey. He was suffering from severe eye infections that rendered him permanently blind.
Photo courtesy of the Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley

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