SPCA New Zealand

SPCA's special needs pets

09 March 2020
SPCA's special needs pets

SPCA's special needs pets

Every year thousands of animals come into SPCA’s care, all with their own story and unique quirks and personality. Some of these animals are our special needs pets, our animals who need that extra love and care.

Whether they are blind, deaf, missing a leg or an eye, or have a neurological condition, we will do anything we can to care for them. We know special needs pets can make a loyal companion to the right home and family.

These are the stories and letters from the owners of some of our special needs pets who have thrived in their forever home and found their happy ever after.

Sydney's story

Sydney was surrendered into SPCA’s care after her owners could no longer care for her. They were confused to why she wasn’t listening to any of their commands and wasn’t catching on with her training.

Sydney was like any dog. She had a wonderful personality and loved to play. But in SPCA’s care it became clear to our team that Sydney wasn’t a disobedient dog - she was actually deaf.

Everything changed after Sydney was diagnosed by our team. SPCA spent months dedicating themselves to helping Sydney grow and adapt with her condition. After eight months in our care, Sydney was adopted into a loving forever home. Her new mum Janine shares what it means to have a special needs pet as part of the family.

“When we first took Sydney home it was no different than taking home any new puppy. We both read as much as we could about deaf dogs using the many information sites available on the internet and books. I also joined a couple of Deaf Dog groups on Facebook,” Janine says.

“There were a few things we did differently to make sure our home was the best fit for Sydney. We made sure that we positioned her bed so that she could see anyone entering the room so that she wouldn’t get a fright. We also put in a night light for her in the hallway.”

“We changed words to hand signals. When we got her she only knew one sign which was 'sit'. We knew that we would need to figure out more signs for us to use instead of words, and that training will be paramount. We attended Dog Obedience classes, treating her no differently than a hearing dog, and Syd graduated with Level 1 and Level 2 Obedience," Janine says proudly.

“It is amusing when we are at the dog park and people are yelling their dog’s name over and over and we just stop, put a hand above our heads and give her the signal to return – successful about 95% of the time!”

“When she is asleep, I’m able to get the shopping inside and unpacked before she wakes up. Sydney is not scared of anything that makes loud noise and that most hearing dogs don’t like. She loves to be showered and then to be blow dried. Sydney also doesn’t bark at every random sound outside the house.”

“What is most rewarding is being able to look back and make comparisons as to how she was when we first got her to the progressions that we have all made together with training. It’s really lovely when people that we meet at the dog park or out and about compliment us on how far we have come together.”

“Adopting Sydney has been one of the best experiences that we have ever had. We know that she is living her best life - and that brings us immense happiness!”

Morry's story

Morry was found by SPCA Inspectors with his leg caught in a leg-hold trap.

He was rushed to the nearest vet and then taken to SPCA. Given the seriousness of Morry’s injury, and the length of time he had likely been caught in the trap, the difficult decision was made to amputate Morry’s leg. Our team knew that Morry could lead a happy and healthy life as a three-legged cat, in the right home.

After weeks of recovery and time in foster care, his foster family made it official and signed the adoption papers themselves. Morry’s new mum Sonia shares how Morry has settled in after his remarkable recovery.

“What first drew me to adopting Morry was his playful personality.”

“I did have some initial concerns when I was first considering adopting him, including his ability to move around the house, going up and down the stairs, and jumping up onto the couch, bed, and chairs. It’s surprising, he’s actually way more agile with one less leg," says Sonia.

“When we first took Morry home, we just wanted to make him feel comfortable after all his recent trauma and wanted him to have a settled place for him to relax and for us to get to know him. Morry settled in quickly and was happy to have a place of his own. He loves playing with his toys and scratch box. He’s so easy to cuddle and likes to snuggle into you close," Sonia says.

“There are a few challenges caring for Morry. He has the tendency to fall off things easier and he’s still getting used to his balance. But what we’ve really loved is seeing how he adapts to situations and how he is just like a normal cat to us.

“Looking after a special needs pet is a lot easier than you think, as they adapt well. Morry has totally fitted into our family and all my girls are totally happy he has moved in with us.”

Eddie's story

Eddie was rescued by SPCA after hewas abandoned with three other rabbits in a box outside a supermarket the middle of a storm. Lauren, who was working for SPCA at the time, heard about the rabbits’ rescue and went to see them. Despite seeing so many animals every day, she instantly had a connection with Eddie.

She didn’t consider adopting him at the time, as she already had two rabbits at home and having three would be hard to bond. But when she heard that Eddie had severe malocclusions – the severe malalignment of the front teeth – that required his incisors to be removed, she knew that he would be coming home with her. Because of his needs, he would need a special home and Lauren jumped at the opportunity. She shares how Eddie has thrived in her home.

“I was concerned when I first contemplated adopting Eddie," she says. "The operation to have his incisors removed wasn't cheap. If I chose to instead have them filed down every 4-6 weeks, that would be stressful for a little bunny. But if they were just left alone, they wouldn't naturally grind down like a normal rabbit’s would and his teeth would end up growing through his lips, causing severe pain and distress. But I could see the fight in him - the happiness and the desire to live.”

“I called my vet before I made the decision, so I was aware of all my options. When I asked, "how will he eat hay?" my vet said, "Oh that's easy -he will just suck it up like a noodle!"

“When I first took Eddie home, there weren’t any issues immediately because he had just had his teeth filed down. It was all about the bonding process with Alfie and Otis, my other two rabbits. Eddie kept me on my toes! My other two were not as cheeky and energetic, so I had no idea what I was in for,” Lauren adds.

“One evening I came home to find he had somehow escaped from his playpen, found his way on the top of the kitchen bench, and had a party with the herbs in the pot plants. There was dirt everywhere!

“I haven't had to do much differently apart from making sure his daily vegetables are cut up very small - either lengthways so he can use his tongue to take his food to his molars, or 1cm by 1cm pieces so he can pick it up really easily. When he is outside on the grass, he also tries to eat the grass from the ground but he can't pull it up, so I have to pull up heaps and then throw it in front of him”

“My advice to anyone adopting special needs pets is to be realistic but also follow your heart. The amount of love and laughs they will give you is indescribable. But there are costs and time involved in looking after a special needs pet so you need to make sure you are 100% committed.”

Sammy's story

Sammy was found lost and alone on a worksite, inside a truck tyre. Thankfully SPCA was called and he was immediately taken into our care.

When Sammy was at SPCA we discovered that he wasn’t a typical kitten. He has a neurological condition called cerebellar hypoplasia, also known as “wobbly cat” syndrome. Sammy isn’t in pain, but he can’t see as well and he walks a bit differently to a ‘normal’ cat. For these reasons, cats with cerebellar hypoplasia are best living in an enriched indoor environment or with access to a safe enclosed outdoor area, commonly known as a ‘catio’.

Mia, who works for SPCA, saw Sammy and knew that she wanted to foster him, but she didn’t expect to adopt him too! Mia shares how Sammy has become a huge part of her life.

“For me, the most stand out memory with Sammy happened just a few days before I had to return him back to SPCA. I was talking and telling him, “whoever adopts you is going to be the luckiest person in the world”. He just gazed up at me with his eyes, like he was telling me I was his mother.”

“The day I took Sammy back to SPCA to get adopted, I just knew I couldn’t be without him. I was bursting into tears and calling my mum asking, “what do I do?”. I just had to adopt him. He was best friends with my other cat Tiger, so it worked perfectly,” Mia says.

“Tiger is very timid and is also a ‘stay-at-home' cat, so when I first took Sammy home there wasn’t much more that I needed to do or change in my home as my home was already ‘kitty proof’. Both Sammy and Tiger have an outdoor enclosure that is attached to my master bedroom. It comes with platforms, ramps and tree trunks so Sammy can play, climb to the highest platform, and be outside but still in an enclosed and safe area.”

“When I first got him, he started off in a crate in my room, and then he got to roam more around the house. Because of his condition, there was the odd occasion where he would run into the door or the window, as he couldn’t slow himself down. He still has moments where he goes skating around the house, or his head wobbles a lot when he gets really excited.”

“It’s just so rewarding to know Sammy has a safe and loving home. Even though Sammy has something extra special about him, he can still live a happy and healthy life like any other cat. Adopting a special needs pet is totally worth it – just knowing that you are giving them a wonderful live that is full of the love they deserve.”

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