Davy was already looking for a pet to adopt when his friends started tagging him in a Facebook post about Arlo, an adorable tabby and white cat with hydrocephalus who was looking for a home through Cats Protection in Bridgend, Wales. “Because I’m a social worker for children with disabilities, everyone kept tagging me, saying it was meant to be,” remembers Davy.
Davy agreed, and in September 2019, he went down to the rescue near his home to meet Arlo, who was born in February 2018, in person. However, before he was allowed to meet the young special needs cat, Davy was asked to complete an adoption application. “The shelter was asking everyone to apply to adopt Arlo,” explains Davy. “Then they were all vetted by the manager.”
Like all of his friends, the adoption manager believed Davy’s skills and experience as a social worker for children with special needs would allow him to provide a wonderful home for Arlo, so she brought him into the adoption room to meet the unique feline. “I remember seeing him and thinking how cute he looked,” says Davy. “He was shy and nervous at first, but he initiated the connection by coming forward and licking me right away.”
Confident he and Arlo would be able to build upon this promising first encounter, Davy adopted the young special needs cat. “I didn’t actively go out and look for a cat with special needs,” explains Davy. “I just saw Arlo, connected, and that was that.”
When he adopted Arlo, Davy knew very little about his life before he ended up at Cats Protection. However, it quickly became apparent the little tabby and white cat hated loud noises, and was very shy and easily startled, causing Davy to conclude Arlo may have spent his kittenhood in a noisy home.
Thankfully, Davy was able to provide Arlo with the calm and quiet environment he needed to thrive, and several months later, this handsome boy is doing great! While he was born with hydrocephalus — a buildup of fluid in the brain, which may have caused him to develop mild cognitive delays — Arlo hasn’t had any health issues, although Davy has had to make a few special accommodations for this unique cat.
“He can specifically struggle with spatial awareness and depth perception, making stairs sometimes difficult,” explains Davy. “Also, he can struggle with heights and jumping down, so he will often cry when he’s on something too high and needs help getting down.”
Also, Arlo’s issues with depth perception make it difficult for him to drink from a bowl like a typical cat, so he often scoops water with his paw and licks it off. However, this isn’t always the most effective method of drinking, so Davy will occasionally squirt water into Arlo’s mouth. “I have to make sure he’s hydrated well,” says Davy, especially because he refuses to eat wet food. “If there are any brands out there reading this who would like to try their products with Arlo, I’m open to talking as I just want him healthy.”
In addition to hydrocephalus, Arlo was born with a malformed eye, a second set of ears, and very small nasal passages. Fortunately, aside from some relatively minor breathing issues, none of these congenital issues have negatively affected Arlo’s health, proving special needs cats aren’t necessarily more time-consuming or expensive to care for than average felines. “He’s cost me no more than any other cat,” says Davy. “I have taken him to the vet more than usual I suppose, but I would if he was a typical cat too. I’d want to make sure he was healthy.”
Thankfully, Arlo is in excellent health, and while he may not look like a typical cat, Davy believes he’s just as affectionate and friendly as any other feline. “He’s your normal lovable cat who also happens to have hydrocephalus, global delay, and a few birth defects,” explains Davy.
Like the average cat, Arlo loves to play, especially with his toy fish, which he likes to carry around with him everywhere he goes. He’s also obsessed with Davy’s slippers, and he can frequently be found cuddling up with them while taking a nap. “He will drag my slippers to his basket and often sleep on them,” says Davy.
Not surprisingly, Arlo also enjoys snuggling with his dad, and there are few activities this sweet boy loves more than curling up with Davy to watch nature shows. “I think his favorites are the ones with gazelles and penguins, as he is particularly attentive to them!” says Davy.
It’s obvious these two make a wonderful pair, and Arlo — who was extremely shy around strangers when Davy met him for the first time — has come out of his shell thanks to his dad. Now, Arlo greets new people with a head bump and a lick, but he’s not the only one whose life has changed for the better since that day in September 2019.
“He’s made my house a home,” says Davy, and Arlo is there each morning to greet him when he wakes up and will meet him at the door when he gets home from work. “When I’m stressed he’s the perfect companion to help me snap into reality. He’s become a very good friend and companion and I wouldn’t be without him now. He means the absolute world to me.”
To learn more about this adorable cat, you can follow Arlo on Instagram.