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How To Convince Potential Adopters That Cerebellar Hypoplasia Cats Are Great Pets

June 13, 2013
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How do you convince a potential adopter that a special needs cat, such as a cerebellar hypoplasia cat, may be “the one”? At some shelters, special needs cats are scooped up quickly. Other shelters report that special needs cats are less adoptable. The unfortunate truth is some folks may simply be skeptical, worried, or have preconceived notions of a special needs condition.

Photo courtesy Marisa | Food in Jars.

This is a post to work past that. Brush up on these conversation topics – you never know when they’ll come in handy at your shelter, when chatting with a friend about rescue, or even while visiting with your vet. Some are good practices when filling out a cat’s profile online, some work well when chatting with potential adopters in person, and others apply to both scenarios.

So where do you start?

The first step is to get to know the cat really well. Spend time with him to understand his abilities and limitations, experiment with ways to help him, and get to know his personality. If the cat was fostered, speak with his foster parent and learn as much as you can about the cat.

This simple, but essential step will take your conversation from:

“This is Wobbles. He wobbles when he walks. He seems to do OK.” to:

“This is Wobbles. He was born with a condition called cerebellar hypoplasia that impacts his fine motor skills, but he doesn’t let that stop him! He’s six-months-old, and in the time I’ve known him, he’s become much more capable. He used to have trouble using the litter box, but now he’s a pro. He loves playing with sparkle balls, and does really well if he has carpet to walk on.”

The difference is you don’t want the cat to be known for only his condition, but for his personality, accomplishments, and what he’s done in spite of being differently abled.

That way, you’ll be able to write an engaging profile online or chat passionately about this cat with potential adopters. Knowing the cat well means that you’ll also be able to answer specific questions about his needs, or address potential future issues. (More on this later.)

But that’s not all. Yes, you want to tug at potential adopters’ heartstrings or pique their curiosity to open their minds to the idea of adopting a special needs cat, but once you get them hooked, it’s time to cover the basics about the cat’s special needs.

So when it comes to CH, I like to explain that cerebellar hypoplasia:

  • Is a congenital neurological condition that results in wobbly walking.
  • Does not impact a cat’s intelligence, only his fine motor skills.
  • Is not a painful condition.
  • Is not contagious.
  • Will not worsen; in fact, some CH cats improve.
  • Will not impact the lifespan of a healthy cat.
  • May require minimal to considerable assistance.

Addressing these issues right away will help the potential adopter better understand the condition, so you can have a more fruitful conversation.

Photo courtesy catvandotnr.

This can also be a segue into chatting more in-depth about the cat’s needs and limitations.

While a wobbly cat may look adorable, the condition also comes with a number of complications. Share the struggles the cat has faced in the past, the current accommodations he needs (if any), and future issues that may come up. This may mean explaining that the cat does best with a modified litter box or does best walking on carpet. It may also mean addressing potential health issues such as chipped teeth. This can help a potential adopter make a well-informed decision.

As Megan said on Facebook, “For example, make sure they are willing to deal with potential litter box problems. You don’t want adopters adopting them, just to return them a few months later when they are tired of the extra work.”

And the truth is some people shouldn’t adopt cerebellar hypoplasia cats. If you’re not sure if the potential adopter would be a good fit, go over this post with them: Should You Adopt A CH Cat?

When speaking with potential adopters, it’s just as important to listen as it is to tell them about the cat and his condition. Take time to understand their concerns and to address each one. If you don’t know the answer, that’s OK. Let them know that you’re willing to look into it, and you’d like to get back them. It would also be a great idea to print out a few of these cerebellar hypoplasia fliers and hand them out as needed.

And lastly, of course, it’s essential that you let the potential adopter get to know the cat. In the shelter, this can mean providing a room or area where potential adopters can sit down and meet with the cat. This can also mean positing a video of the cat online, so potential adopters can better understand the cat’s condition before they even walk in your door.

The whole point is that you want to convey the truth about the condition, but at the same time help them realize that the cat’s identity isn’t wrapped up solely in that condition. By taking the time to address all aspects of a cat’s special needs, you’ll help potential adopters make well-informed decisions – and hopefully change their lives for the better forever.

And if all else fails, don’t forget this: 10 Reasons To Adopt A Cerebellar Hypoplasia Cat.

Do you have any more tips? Please share in the comments!

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