On June 20, 2017, Maya (formerly Sugarplum) — a female tabby cat with a chromosomal abnormality akin to Down Syndrome — was rescued by The Odd Cat Sanctuary, a nonprofit organization in Salem, Massachusetts, that’s dedicated to helping cats and kittens who often have difficulty finding homes, including felines who are feral, elderly, injured, sick, handicapped, or on death row.
The Odd Cat Sanctuary discovered Maya — who was approximately eight months when she was rescued — was small for her age and had vision issues, but she was an otherwise healthy cat, allowing them to place her with a foster family while they tried to find this special girl a forever home.
Less than two weeks after Maya was rescued by The Odd Cat Sanctuary, the organization posted her picture and details on their Facebook page. When Lauren Beader of Salem, Massachusetts, saw Maya, she was instantly drawn to the adorable tabby girl.
Having grown up with a dog who had arthritis and diabetes, Lauren had experience caring for an animal with special needs, but it was her work with people with disabilities that caused her to feel an immediate connection with Maya. “I’ve actually coached a Special Olympics team nearly every Saturday since I was 12,” explains Lauren. “I consider myself a disability advocate, and have always known I wanted a pet with a disability.”
However, The Odd Cat Sanctuary’s Facebook post about Maya had gone semi-viral: applications for Maya flooded in, and Lauren and Harrison were just two of the many applicants the rescue interviewed in order to find the purrfect family for this unique cat.
After a number of interviews, The Odd Cat Sanctuary decided Lauren and Harrison would be able to provide the best home for this wonderful and one of a kind cat, and Maya’s adoption was finalized on July 27, 2017. Maya has adjusted well to her new life with Lauren and Harrison. “She is not shy, she talks a ton, she doesn’t always like to be pet, and she is super playful,” says Harrison, adding, “Typical cat.”
In addition to her vision issues, the couple discovered Maya tends to get a stuffy nose due to her unique nasal structure. “Every time she gets out of breath, she sneezes like 15 times in a row,” explains Harrison. “It’s actually adorable.” Due to Maya’s story and cute appearance, she’s gained a large following on Instagram, with a lot of people commenting that they’d like to adopt a special needs pet.
However, Lauren and Harrison hope to inspire people to adopt special needs animals for the right reasons. “Do it because they have a harder time being adopted and you want to give them a good home,” says Lauren. “Just know that it’s a commitment. No matter what health issues arise, you’ve got to be there for them.”
While a number of people have expressed concern for Maya, Lauren and Harrison want them to understand that there’s no need to worry about this special feline. “A chromosomal abnormality is not a disease,” explains Lauren. “She’s happy, she’s healthy, and she doesn’t know any different.”
Maya has definitely attracted a lot of attention because of her condition, but her new family thinks it’s important for people to realize this beautiful tabby girl is just like any other cat. “Disability might be limiting in some ways,” says Lauren, “but she’s more than her disability — even if it does make her look adorably different.”
To learn more about Maya and her amazing family, you can follow them on Instagram.