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Published: Jan 25, 2012

Cats, dogs and other domesticated animals who have chronic illnesses or disabilities need loving homes just as much as other animals—if not more.  The Will County Humane Society in Shorewood, Illinois, recently declared January its first unofficial "special needs" month to encourage people to adopt sick or disabled pets, according the The Herald-News.

"These guys need good homes too, and we want to see that they get them," Larry Ringbauer, the shelter's manager, told the news source. "They can't help the way they are."

The shelter is trying to find homes for a number of cats who suffer from feline leukemia virus (FeLV). The highly infectious virus can be passed between cats and so it is important that an adoptive owner not have other cats.  Typically, cats who have been diagnosed with FeLV will develop a number of clinical signs as their health deteriorates, according to VCA Animal Hospitals. Cats infected with FeLV often develop other illnesses such as anemia and even lymphosarcoma cancer. There is no treatment for FeLV, and once cats have been diagnosed, their life expectancy drops significantly.

Felines living with FeLV and associated diseases may be more lethargic and less playful than otherwise healthy cats. They require more frequent veterinary care and often need long term medications in order to combat concurrent diseases.  The Herald-News reports that a quiet, commotion-free environment is likely best for sick cats.  Adopting a pet with a chronic illness may be challenging both emotionally and financially and these things should be carefully considered before adoption.