ASPCA Happy Tails: A Very Special “Special Needs” Cat

Tuesday, March 4, 2014 - 10:00am
Small grey cat wearing glasses

In celebration of the ASPCA’s new collaboration with Lil BUB, we’re dedicating this week’s Happy Tail to another special needs cat, Ella. Ella was adopted from the ASPCA in 2012, and was soon after diagnosed with terminal cancer. Despite the challenges of her illness, her adopter, Stephen B., has nothing but love for this sweet older cat. Here is their Happy Tail.

Stephen met Ella on his very first trip to the ASPCA. Drawn in by her glowing green eyes, he says, “When we found out that Ella had lived her entire life in shelters and never had a real home before, there was really no chance of saying no to her.” After Ella’s adoption, Stephen discovered tumors on her stomach and learned that she had terminal cancer. “My first reaction was to be glad that we had given her a real home for the last months of her life, or however long she had left,” recalls Stephen.

As time went on, their relationship strengthened. Stephen says, “She is very much my cat, and I’m very much her human.” In fact, he put together a “Bucket List” for Ella after receiving her diagnosis! “One of the things I really wanted to do was try taking her outside on a leash. She likes to sit on my window and look outside, so I thought she should have a chance to actually feel the grass beneath her paws.”

Grey cat with green eyes sitting outside on the grass

Four months after her first outdoor excursion, Stephen sent an exciting update: New X-rays show that Ella’s cancer has subsided, and her three-month prognosis has been updated to at least a few years. Whether it was the grass, Stephen’s love, or simply a miracle, we’ll never know, but we are so happy that this feisty feline will be around for a long time to come.

Stephen says, “Ella is probably the smartest decision I’ve made in my adult life. Cats with medical conditions deserve love just as much as the rest of them, and they’re so, so ready to give it.”

Watch Stephen and Ella’s story, including her first foray into the outdoors, in this beautiful video by our friends at The Sidekick Series.

Sleeping cat curled up on bed

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Bless you Stephen and Ella, may you have many wonderful years together! My respect to anyone that saves an animal's life, especially those that adopt older, and or special needs animals. They ask so little of us, and give so much in return!

Happy Tales

I am so happy for Stephen and Ella! She is beautiful--and that has little to do with the way she looks, although that is pretty as well. I've had pets adverse diagnoses and backgrounds. They've enriched my life, as Ella is doing for Stephen. Stephen is fortunate; my late dog, Samson, also had cancer growths in his stomach that likely had metastasized into his liver--it showed up on X-ray as stomach and liver growths. He hadn't shown any symptoms until then. Samson had his own hard-luck story a few years before. Anyway, I wasn't as lucky as these two. Samson died of his disease, but many more years to Stephen and Ella! I hope others will be encouraged to give animals with imperfections, challenges, whatever you want to call them, a chance. You will be amazed and blessed!


What an amazing story of love! I have rescued felines for what seems like ages now. One of our angels became ill and the diagnosis was a large blockage in her intestine. Her health took a sudden decline and the blockage remained. At that point, surgery was not an option due to her fragile condition. I don't know if it was prayer, wishing, or positive thoughts of love for her...but she went in for a final x-ray following treatment to move the obstruction and to our surprise and joy, the blockage was gone...literally, just not there anymore. The doctor was freaked out, as nothing has been passed in the cage and there was no obstruction to be found. She's still with us today and we wouldn't take anything for the years we have shared with her. Sometimes when the darkest of conditions exist, there is still hope. Many of my rescued angels have health issues. Believe me, the love they give is worth ten times any expense or care they require. I hope that everyone will know this and consider giving any animal a home, regardless of their health. It's a special gift from nature.


Sooooo happy to know that Ella still blesses you everyday!


God bless all of you who have taken in special needs and/or older kitties. in each of my "batches" of cats that have owned me there has been one. One of my first kitties was positive for feline leukemia, but she gave me so much love in the short 3 years I had her. I will always treasure every minute spent with every cat I had and have......
So touched to hear Ella is doing well!!! She looks like such a sweetie!


This is the most wonderful story I have read in a very long time. Ella is a beautiful cat and Stephen is a most awesome human!!! I am so happy that Ella is going to have many more wonderful walks "where she can feel the grass beneath her paws." Oh, and she looks so comfy and cozy curled up on her quilt!! Thank you for sharing this story with everyone!!!


I truly love each and every one of you that has made the choice to take a beautiful kitty....sometimes elderly sometime sick yet a beautiful kitty. I have my own story of Gracie O'Meowly who was very large yet sick when I adopted her. Her mom was put in a nursing home and when I met her I knew that I had to take her as I would/ will/ and did go to whatever lengths to help her feel as best she could. I only had her for two and a half years she was truly one of the sweetest cats I ever had. It was devastating to lose her but I know that her last years were the best she had and she made my life pretty darn happy as well. She loved to ride in the car so she made many trips with me. People took double takes to see a 25 lb. kitty riding along looking everywhere! What a blessing as Stephen and Ella and the others who have told their stories. God bless each one of you and your beloved pets, past, present and lucky for them. I really mean it when I say I love you all but there are no a lot of people who will take in kitties with needs, sadly they miss out in a lot that these beautiful cats have to teach us!


Beautiful story and pretty cat! <3 I've always wanted to take my cat out on a leash... just afraid it might be too much for him to handle (he's quite skittish!)


I have been lucky enough to foster a special needs kitten, a 6-month little guy who had to have his diseased eyes removed. The thing about special needs cats is that THEY don't know they are "special needs" so they just find ways to be normal. And that is how they blow minds and conquer hearts -- not by being needy but by being capable. Has anyone read Gwen Cooper's account of her life with a 3-pound blind cat, Homer? The book is called Homer's Odyssey, and is available in many languages & countries around the world.

Anne Grice

Thank you al at the ASPCA for all the humane work you do for animals there. I hope people will take these loving beings home soon. People need to know that animals can enhance the health of humans in many ways. Research by the American Heart Association, pet ownership is one of the factors associated with a reduction in the risk factor of heart disease. Please see the positive effects of cats and dogs on human health at the American Heart Association website! But of course you would have to take good care of the pet.