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2 disabled cats show physical differences don’t matter when it comes to love

Onyx lounges on the couch with her owner, Cindy Houk of Butler. Submitted Photo
Companionable Cats

Disabled pets like Onyx and Stanley are as lovable, caring and fun as all the rest. Just ask their owners.

Onyx is a 3-year-old black cat with a facial deformity, a cleft palate. She has no upper lip or nose, is missing a couple of teeth, and only grows whiskers on one side of her face.

Onyx’s owner, Cindy Houk of Butler, adopted Onyx from the Butler County Humane Society where she worked as a veterinary technician. Houk said she doesn’t mind Onyx’s differences and barely notices anymore.

“She’s kind of imperfectly perfect,” Houk said. “She’s just unique.”

Houk said she has always loved animals, especially rescues, so she was drawn to Onyx when the cat was brought to the shelter with her kittens.

Onyx sunbathes by the window. Submitted Photo

Despite her friendly nature, Onyx didn’t get adopted as quickly as her kittens. Black cats are adopted less than cats with other fur colors, and other potential adopters turned their heads because of Onyx’s cleft palate.

“People took one look at her and wanted nothing to do with her,” Houk said. “I ended up falling in love with her and adopted her myself.”

Houk said when she brought Onyx home from the shelter Onyx stuck by her legs while getting used to the new environment.

“She’s like my shadow, she follows me everywhere,” Houk said.

Now that Onyx has adjusted to life outside of the shelter, Houk said her demeanor has changed. Onyx never meowed in the shelter but is outspoken now. She’s friendlier, snugglier, more energetic and happy.

Houk said Onyx gets along well with her other pets, too. Besides Onyx, Houk also has an 11-year-dog named Rascal, two 15-year-old cats named Sarah and Paris, two 5-year-old cats named Jasper and Dixon, and two 4-year-old cats named Star and Siren.

“She kind of fit in the family with her cleft palate,” Houk said. “She fit right in.”

As far as having a cleft palate, Houk said Onyx is only affected when she gets food stuck in the open part of her mouth where she is missing her lip. But when this happens, Onyx simply sneezes several times and the food comes out.

Even though people looked past Onyx in the shelter, Houk finds her to be the same as any other pet and is happy to have found a companion in this disabled kitty.

“She’s just as caring, just as loving, just as fun as any other cat,” Houk said.

Houk said a lesson she has learned from Onyx and wants to share with others, is that it is OK to have disabled pets.

“People need to look at disabled pets as well. You can’t pass them up,” Houk said. “You have to look beyond the outside because they’re just as wonderful as all the rest.”

Stanley, a young black cat with no tail, taught a similar lesson to his owner.

Stanley’s owner, Sarah May, lives in Slippery Rock. May said she found Stanley as a young kitten darting across the road in August 2021.

May said Stanley was in horrible shape and only 1.7 pounds. His tail was degloved, raw, open and bleeding, but May didn’t know how the injury occurred.

Stanley was captured and taken to a shelter in August 2021. Submitted Photo

“Maggots were literally eating him alive,” May said.

When May brought Stanley to a vet, they amputated his tail immediately.

“(He) is the coolest tailless kitty around!” May said.

May said Stanley needed to learn to jump, balance and play without a tail. He uses his claws to climb instead of jump and can’t balance as well or jump as high as other cats.

Despite his challenges, Stanley maintains an active lifestyle. May said he is cuddly and playful. He also enjoys toys, especially cardboard boxes.

“He has the most amazing zest for life,” May said. “I am so lucky to be his mom!”

May said Stanley even loves to watch tv shows. His favorite is “The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross.”

Stanley watches his favorite show “The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross.” Submitted Photo

“The combination of the paintbrush sound and visuals make him go crazy,” May said. “He paws at the screen … and runs around the house because he is so excited by it.”

Like Onyx, Stanley has learned to make friends with May’s other pets. She has a dog, Layla, and another cat, Chloe.

“Layla’s really surprised me,” May said of how well her dog has accepted and learned to play with Stanley.

May said she remembers the first time she petted Stanley and how far he has come from the feisty and scared kitten he was when May found him.

“I think I have it on video,” May said, reminiscent of the first time she was able to pet Stanley without being clawed. “He had such a big purr.”

Since May officially adopted Stanley in September of 2021, they have stuck together. May said she thinks of Stanley as her little baby, and he follows her everywhere.

The lesson May said she learned from Stanley and wants to share with others is about his positive attitude. He is happy and grateful to be where he is in life no matter his circumstances.

“Stanley’s really taught me the power of overcoming,” May said.

May wants others to give animals like Stanley a chance, too.

“Don’t be afraid if you see an animal in need,” May said. “More people need to be involved in stuff like that.”

Houk and May both said they think people should look at disabled pets through the same lens as any other pet. No matter what their physical differences may be, they can be a friend for life.

Stanley sits with his big sister, Chloe. Submitted Photo