By Special Guest Columnist: Claudia Hehr*

Animals are the most wonderful and precious friends we can ever have or wish for. But sometimes those wonderful friends have or can develop a special need.

A cat, dog, or any animal can develop special needs at any time. Those special needs can be visible or invisible, and can range from mild hearing loss to total immobility. The special need can come on suddenly, such as an accident or a stroke, or can develop over a period of time, such as development of cataracts. Some conditions of aging can also be included in special needs. A special need can be temporary, such as recovering from surgery, or permanent, like arthritis due to hip dysplasia.

The good news is that, just like us, cats and all other animals with special needs can still lead happy and fulfilling lives. Just because a cat can’t climb or jump up on furniture anymore or might have trouble hearing or seeing, that doesn’t mean he or she is not able to enjoy life anymore. Our friends just need a bit of help and encouragement.

Depending on our animal companions’ issues, there are many simple things we can do to make our friends’ lives more comfortable and give  them back the dignity and respect they deserve.For example:

  • Situating the food and water bowl beside our animal companion’s favorite resting place will help avoid unnecessary movement
  • Placing stepping stools or ramps will help our best friends get on and off furniture safely, easily, and comfortably,
  • Putting carpets on slippery floors so our animal companions can walk with confidence and don’t have to worry about slipping and hurting themselves,
  • Adding more litter boxes, especially in multi-level homes, so the cat can avoid stairs

But no matter what our animal companion’s special needs are, the most important thing to realize is that animals have feelings, too. Animals have the same emotions as humans, such as joy, happiness, embarrassment, sorrow, sadness and many more, which means that laughing at them when they are trying to climb stairs, or making thoughtless comments such as: “This is an old cat and should be put down” or “Your cat is too fat” can have a very negative impact.

Hera, who I have the honor of sharing my life with for almost twelve years, is my soulmate and dog companion.To honor Hera and everything she has been going through in her life, I decided to raise awareness for animals with special needs. I want to help those beautiful souls be accepted in society, and be able to go and do anything a non-special needs animals is doing without having to endure hurtful remarks.

Hera was diagnosed with hip dysplasia 11 years ago, and underwent three reconstructive hip surgeries. She was also diagnosed with Addison’s disease at the age of four. Shortly after that, Hera started having trouble walking again. I wanted to help my best friend enjoy her life to the fullest and the things she likes to do, such as going for walks, spending time in the park and meeting friends. So I decided to get her a wagon.

When I first got it, Hera was so happy and excited and could hardly wait to try it out. During our first walk, however, we met some people who laughed at her, pointed fingers and making some very unkind remarks. The next day the same thing happened, and on the third day, I couldn’t persuade Hera to get into her wagon at all. Because I am an animal communicator I was able to ask her why she didn’t want to use her cart anymore and Hera told me how embarrassed and deeply hurt she was by what people had been saying about her. The wagon that was supposed to bring my best friend happiness and a new opportunity of life had turned out to be the source of dismay; and Hera became sad, quiet, almost withdrawn, I didn’t want to give up being able to give Hera her life back, and six months later I found a cart that gives Hera more privacy. We have been using it now for more than six years and it’s been wonderful. Because it gives  Hera so much security to have the cart with her, she walks that much further when we are out.

Let’s encourage our animal friends with special needs when they are trying to exercise or trying to do something. Please, acknowledge and support him or her with a kind word. Many people have health or age-related problems and still lead full, happy and satisfying lives. Let our animal friends have the same chance. Let’s help them to enjoy their lives to the fullest, too.

To find out more about animals with special needs please visit, or call 416-413-7671.