ASPCA Happy Tails: A "Lil" Love Goes a Long Way for Special Needs Cat

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - 9:45am
Light orange and white cat

Barbara G. has been a volunteer at the ASPCA for over 10 years, so she’s seen her fair share of animals. With two ASPCA cats at home, she had no plans to adopt a third—until she met Lil Ricky. A feisty cat with a number of health issues, Ricky was having a hard time finding a home. But Barbara believed in him, and proved that with a little patience and a lot of love, Ricky could flourish. Here is the Happy Tail of how this special cat went from “hisser” to “kisser.”

Most days, Barbara can be found at the ASPCA Adoption Center socializing cats and syringe-feeding kittens. While going about this work last year, she noticed Lil Ricky. At just three months old, the kitten was already suffering from a number of issues: Cerebellar Hypoplasia (a condition that leads to poor balance), Cardiomyopathy (a weak heart), and a repaired broken leg. As Barbara puts it, “He was unsteady on his feet, would need lifelong cardiac medication, and had the potential for complications from the leg fracture.” He was a tough kitty that would be a challenge for even the most experienced animal adopter.

Ricky was fostered out for a while, but was eventually returned to the shelter for his ensuing aggression issues. After that, Barbara recalls, “Lil Ricky was in the ‘available’ area but not one potential adopter inquired about him.” She couldn’t bear to see him with no potential home outside the shelter, and so decided to try a four-week “foster to adopt” program with the cat. During this time, he moved into Barbara’s apartment and was carefully introduced to her other pets. True to his unpredictable nature, Ricky did something that defied all expectations: He fit right in.

Barbara officially adopted Lil Ricky just short of his first birthday. Since then, she says, “He has gone from a kitten that could barely walk to an adolescent running, climbing, and playing hard with his new brother and sister. Ricky may stumble and fall on occasion, but he always gets up and keeps on going!”

Barbara and Lil Ricky’s story is proof that every animal is worth saving. Transformed from a feisty wildcat into a loving companion, Ricky now greets Barbara at the door every day and sleeps snugly next to her every single night. 

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Orange and white cat laying on bed

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Lil Ricky is soft and gorgeous. He looks so totally content and calm in his new, loving home. Thank you to Barbara for her many years of service to so many animals in need and for giving brave, beautiful Ricky a new and wonderful life.


What a beautiful cat! I'm so happy he got a second chance.


So incredibly happy this sweet lil boy found a home he deserves where he fits right in! I too have a kitty with Cerebellar Hypoplasia. He doesn't like to jump or really even climb, but he will do either one to get into my lap for cuddles and love. I believe special needs pets are some of the most precious. <3

Dolores Chastain

Barbara, truly is an angel on this earth. I hope she knows what a great person she is. Lil Ricky is a sweet beautiful boy and so lucky he has Barbara to love him.


Lil Ricky is beautiful and so must be Barbara for taking time to recognize the "real" beauty he had inside him. I own two "special needs" cats. The oldest, Sam is 16, almost deaf, has arthritis and believes he should eat every hour. It takes a lot of patience because he is so vocal. I got him from PetSmart rescue when he was 10 months old-he had never been outside a cage. Taking him home, he showed how much he loved being free to run from room to room. He is very affectionate. My second cat, CB, was rescued with his mom from our woods. He was 3 months in the wild so it took a while to get him use to being touched and around people. His mother gave me 6 babies, which were adopted out to their own "forever homes"-two were disabled physically. The mother was extremely sick and didn't survive. Introducing the two male cats to one another took a lot of patience, but after a month, they were playing together and having fun. CB does not like to be picked up or around strangers, he's afraid of large noises, storms and loud vehicles. Considering all this, he is still very loving, playful and I work with him every day to make him feel comfortable and secure. He becomes very stressed when I have to go out. Still, with all their special requirements, I love them both very much and wouldn't trade them for any other cat. Just goes to show that one can never judge a cat by what they first see. They have much more to give if only given the chance.


Lovely success stories thank you ,,,,,an inspiration for many potential adopters ,and what a beautiful colour Lil Ricky is now in maturity. Thank you for sharing .Put a smile on my face , Cheshire cat style !!!


So happy this beautiful, sweet cat found a forever home!!!! He could almost be a twin to my most recent rescue.
Barbara, you are truly a special person for all you do!!!!!!......


It is obvious that you, Barbara, and Lil Ricky belonged together! Lil Ricky needed your patience and the friendship of your other pets. By the way, Lil Ricky is a
gorgeous cat!