Two Special Needs Cats Find What It Truly Means to Be a Family

June 15, 2017

Jacob and Cheer

“Adopting them has helped me to realize that cats who are FIV+ or have other special needs have just as much love and affection to give and can live full, happy lives.” –Chloe H. of New York, NY

In late July 2016, we met a six-year-old cat named Jacob after he was removed from a hoarding situation with more than 60 other emaciated cats. Shortly after his arrival at the ASPCA Animal Hospital (AAH), veterinarians diagnosed Jacob with Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), a disease that weakens cats’ immune systems and makes them susceptible to other infections. Although FIV can be dangerous and harmful to a cat’s health if not properly treated, it is completely manageable when the cat is given proper care. The veterinary team immediately began treating Jacob’s condition, and within two weeks, he was able to move onto the ASPCA Adoption Center to begin his search for a loving home.

Jacob, in the Adoption Center.

Jacob, in the Adoption Center.

In mid-August, just one week after Jacob’s arrival at the Adoption Center, another hoarding case brought a new group of neglected cats to the ASPCA. One of these cats was Cheer, a fearful two-year-old with a shy disposition that indicated that he was probably under-socialized as a kitten. After the veterinary team examined him, they noted that, like Jacob, Cheer was also FIV+. But although the two cats had similar, tragic beginnings and hardships, their paths at the ASPCA would first take them on two separate journeys.

While Jacob went home with an adopter in August, Cheer spent the next few months at the Adoption Center. When Jacob was returned just before Halloween, no one expected that the two sweet cats would soon find their paths converging.  

Cheer, in the Adoption Center.

Cheer, in the Adoption Center.

In late November, one month after Jacob’s return, Chloe H. came into the Adoption Center. Chloe had decided that she was ready for companionship after mourning the loss of her cat several months earlier. She knew that she was open to possibly bringing home two cats, and worked with the behavior specialists at the Adoption Center to determine which furry friends would be the right ones for her lifestyle and personality. In the days that followed, Chloe tells us that she also checked the Adoptable Cats page on the ASPCA website repeatedly to see if anyone special caught her eye. That’s when she saw Jacob.

“When I saw Jacob, I was instantly drawn to him. He was amazingly beautiful. His eyes looked so gorgeous,” Chloe tells us. “When I was ready to adopt, I visited the ASPCA on three separate occasions before choosing them. I looked at many cats and kittens, but each time I kept going back to visit Jacob. He seemed so affectionate.”

Jacob showing off his affectionate side.

Jacob showing off his affectionate side.

After spending some time with Jacob, Chloe knew he was the right match for her, but she tells us that adopting Cheer was a very pleasant surprise. “Jacob was not initially part of a bonded pair, but the Adoptions Counselors told me that he was good with other cats and that he could go home with another one (if I wanted),” she tells us. “Then, I saw the sweetest orange-and-white cat curled up sleeping in a bed. The adoptions team told me that was Cheer, and that he had a rough start, was quite shy and was likely under-socialized as a kitten. As an experienced cat person, I felt comfortable that I could handle the situation and decided to adopt him as well! I knew that with time, patience, love and consistency he would come out of his shell.”   

Cheer snuggled in a blanket

Cheer enjoying a snuggle.

So Chloe happily made the adoptions official and took the two new brothers home to begin the next chapter of their lives. She renamed Cheer “Leo,” and slowly introduced the pair into her home. Chloe tells us that although their adjustment was slow at first, the bothers have truly made themselves at home and have since formed a special bond. The boys love their playtime, and while Jacob loves being high up on his cat tree, Leo prefers to be snuggled up in low, enclosed spaces. Chloe tells us that the progress that the once fearful Leo has made has been truly remarkable, and that much of that is owed to his big brother. 

Jacob and cheer cuddling

“Though both cats weren't initially a bonded pair, they definitely are now! They have a typical big brother, little brother relationship,” she says. “Every day they have times they wrestle, but it's clearly just play. Other times, they enjoy lying together and grooming each other. Jacob likely would have been okay as an only cat, but Leo really needed Jacob to help him feel more comfortable.”

It’s clear in the way that Chloe talks about her sweet four-legged-family members that the three of them were truly meant to be. “I am so thankful to the ASPCA for allowing me to adopt these amazing boys, and for all the love and care they took in rescuing them. I love them so much!” 

Jacob and cheer sleeping

When asked about their “special needs,” Chloe told us that although she was initially hesitant about adopting not one but two FIV+ kitties, she doesn’t regret her decision for a minute. In fact, it is something that bonded them further. “I'm really glad that I decided to adopt them despite their FIV status. I have several chronic health issues myself and I do my best to fight the stigma that comes along with these issues,” she explains. “I try very hard to establish a life and identity that is separate from my illnesses. I want the same thing for Jacob and Leo, and I want to help break the stigma for them too. I will always be here to care for them and love them. At the same time they have definitely enriched my life and make my days brighter.”

June is Adopt a Shelter Cat Month, and you can create your own Happy Tail for a cat in need by adopting a local shelter cat today.