A Place in Your Heart: Adopting a Special Needs Cat


Special Needs Cats

According with the ASPCA, 3.4 million cats enter animal shelters every year and only 1.4million are adopted. Feral,  senior and special needs cats are those with lower adoption rates, while kittens usually are adopted very fast.

Special needs cats tend to be overlooked at the shelter mainly because they require a higher level of attention, care and resources from their owner.They tend to endure more time at the shelter, witch can be very stressful for the cat.

With today’s veterinary technology,  special needs cats are able to live longer, happier, healthier lives. They just need to find  a loving home and a dedicate owner.

FIV- Positive Cats

The Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is a infection carried by a retrovirus that causes immunodeficiency disease in cats. It’s transmitted to other cats, through scratches and bites, but not through contact or through the air. 

The FIV virus affects the cat’s ability to develop a normal immune response, leaving the cat vulnerable to others infections caused by normally harmless bacteria, virus, protozoa and fungi that are found in everyday environment.

In order to avoid a FIV-infected cat to contract secondary diseases, the owner should avoid feeding her raw foods such as meat, poultry or eggs. Is mandatory that the cat lives indoors in order to prevent the secondary infections.

Secondary infections can be life threatening if not treated for the FIV cat immune system is unable to respond.

A FIV positive cat can live for years without showing any symptoms of immunodeficiency, living a normal life. Most of FIV cats that has the disease are un-neutered males fighting for food, females or territory, who picked up and spread the virus. They are feral, stray or cats that live outdoors without control from their owners.

There is no risk for humans and other species and with love, proper care and regular vet visits FIV positive cats can enjoy a normal life with no apparent health problems resulting from the virus.

FIV positive cats still find it hard to find new homes, even though they are normal, loving cats that deserve a chance to live a happy life.


The Six Toed Cat and the Sea

Hemingway probably had mistaken the titled of his famous and Pulitzer Prize book, “The Old Man and the Sea”. What he actually meant was to write about the Six Toed Cat and the Sea.

Yes, definitely Hemingway loved polydactyl cats !

Polydactyly is  a genetic anomaly that causes the cat to be born with more than five toes on one or more of its paws. Polydactyl  cats are most commonly found along the East Coast of the US , Canada and in South West England and Wales.

But how did Hemingway know about it ?

He probably didn’t !! 

But the story Key West polydactyl cats, or simply Hemingway cats as they are known goes back to 1928 when Hemingway lived in Kew West, Florida. There he met Captain Harold S. Dexter from Massachusetts and his  famous cat, Snowball. Hemingway took a white kitten from Snowball litter and brought home. He and his kids called the kitten Snow White. 

Hemingway’s home was turned into a museum (The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum) and today there are approximately 40-50 polydactyl  cats living in the premises and some of the cats are descendants of Snow White. As Key West is a small island, it is possible that many of the cats living on the island are related.

Hemingway cat (5 of 5)

The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum – 2015  Photo: Ruth Szwarcbart – iPhone


Hemingway cat (2 of 5)

Hemingway Studio -The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum – 2015 Photo: Ruth Szwarcbart – iPhone

Hemingway cat (1 of 5)


It’s known that cats have inspired many famous  writers  through history such as Hemingway, Mark Twain, Bukowski, Edgar Allan Poe and Jean-Paul Sartre. Other famous artists also loved their feline companions – Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol, Frida Kahlo. 

But no one needs to be a famous artist or a famous writer to have a loyal cat by his/her side. There are many cats in shelters, waiting to inspire their human companions.

But if you want to be like Hemingway, a good start is to meet Tyson, our polydactyl cat. He is waiting for you at The Gifford Cat Shelter in Brighton, Massachusetts.


Hemingway cat (4 of 5)

Photo: Ruth Szwarcbart