Living with Special Needs Pets: An Interview with Dusty Rainbolt

Today, we have a real life story of a rescuer of Special Needs cats! Meet Dusty Rainboldt, a writer who is well-known in the cat-loving community. She is also the Vice President of, and she’s here today to share her experiences of fostering and living with special needs pets.

Welcome, Dusty!

Crepes: Tell us about the special needs cats in your life.

DR: Since 1986, I  have fostered and re-homed over a thousand bottle babies. On our third date, my husband and I rescued an orphan kitten.  Over the years we ended up keeping kitties with health issues: a hydrocephalic kitten, an FIV positive kitten, and three three-legged kitties (one also had a neurological condition in addition to his missing leg), herpes kitties, a blind cat, feral adults. We’ve also cared for our personal cats with special needs: kidney disease, fatty liver disease, pancreatitis, and conditions associated with age.

We’ve also fostered cruelty and trauma cases that took many months to recover. One kitty was a victim of domestic violence. He suffered brain trauma and eventually lost his eye. Zeki, another stray, survived a knife attack. Her rehab required twice daily hydro therapy sessions. Right now we have a kitty named Taco who suffered from serious intentional burns. Like Zeki, we had to do hydrotherapy and keep the wound protected.

Taco looking great after some care and love.
Taco looking great after lots of care and love.
C: What are your cats’ needs like?
DR: Right now, we have three-legged cats, a visually challenged kitty with herpes, and some bottle babies. Our animal ophthalmologist says BK has some vision. Normally, they say if you have blind pet, don’t move the furniture. He at least has enough vision that  furniture isn’t a problem. He needs no special care, except we give him lysine and eyedrops. The FIV positive kitty needs no special care as the disease isn’t active. The three-leggers need nothing special. They can outrun me anytime. The plus is, they don’t jump on the table or the counters.
C: Indeed. I feel their frustration about the counters. Why did you decide to adopt special needs?
DR: Nobody else wanted to adopt them. People who only want “normal” or beautiful pets are really losing out. Leggo (our tripod with the neurological issues) wobbles when he goes from one place to another. He never takes a direct route. Still, it’s inspiring to watch him and our other special guys. When they wake up after losing a leg, they don’t feel sorry for themselves. They don’t whine. They don’t have to worry about other kitties teasing them. When you watch them get up for the first time you can see them think, “That’s different.” They just figure out the best way to get around and get on with their lives.

Having special pets teaches children compassion and acceptance for humans with disabilities. I think everyone should have a special pet.


C: I agree. Do you find caring for their needs to be a lot of extra work?
DR: It depends on the “need”. The pancreatitis is a lot of work. Frequent feedings. You have to  provide pain relief and fluids. Kidney cats need fluids and need to be encouraged to eat. For the most part, most special need don’t need anything special.
C: Would you do it again?
DR: Unequivocally yes.
C: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

DR:  When you adopt or foster a special needs kitty you are saving a life. They’re usually the last ones adopted/rescued and the first ones euthanized. If you market them right, people will want to adopt them. I don’t regret  a moment. I just wish I could clone myself so I could save more.


That’s it! Another inspiring look into someone living with special needs pets. A big thank you to Dusty for speaking with me today.

More about Dusty Rainbolt:

Dusty is the Vice President of, a shop to donate website dedicated to helping pet charities. She’s also active in the Cat Writers Association, is a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, and is the author of Cat Wrangling Made Easy, Kittens for Dummies, And Ghost Cats: Human Encounters with Feline Spirits, among other things. You can find out more at



  • Ditto to Maxwell, Allie and Faraday! Special needs label means, to humans, more work, time getting less in return. Not true in the least…but sadly, humans are great rumor followers peeEss all 3 of the CH litters I posted about were adopted…same human! Said he could not break them apart!

  • Awesome interview today Alana !!! I’ve heard a lot of great things about Dusty and enjoyed reading
    “first paw” if you will, her life experiences with the cats ♥♥

    oh, and da tabbies say: heerz two a grate week oh end with plentee oh pie, spuds & NOE BURD ♥

  • Awesome interview. We are so grateful for humans like Dusty, who do such compassionate and important work.

    Happy Crepes on the Cats of the CB Calendar Day! 🙂

  • LOVE this!!! Two of us are special needs – Sophie has CH, and Sassy is FIV+. Mom says she wouldn’t trade us in or change anything about us. And she says that she will always adopt special needs kitties. Too bad more people don’t feel the same way as Dusty does. Sharing.

  • I agree completely – they’re the last to be adopted and the first to be euthanized. I’ve even stopped calling them special needs because that implies “work” to an adopter. I adore mine – and just because he’s different doesn’t mean he’s any less amazing. I’ll always seek out less adoptable ones! Wonderful interview!!!

  • People who open their hearts and homes to special needs animals are special and wonderful.
    Crepes is looking very sweet on the Cats of the CB Calendar today!

  • how inspiring…..and we laughed at the “no counters” comment….when the couple that adopted our Bourbon boy (born with no knee caps in his back legs), we mentioned the that an added bonus was he can’t jump up on counters. 🙂

  • Oh bless Miss Dusty and those other humans who do SO much for special needs kitties. What a gift to the world that there are special humans out here who have that calling……….makes our hearts FULL.

    Hugs, Sammy and Mom

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