Army soldier welcomes special needs cat into her young military family

Army soldier welcomes special needs cat into her young military family

Jessica knows a few things about doing the right thing. So it was not surprising when the career soldier decided that a special needs cat would be the best choice for her growing family.

Called to serve

Our shared national tragedy inspired Jessica to enlist in the military.

“I chose to enter service shortly after 9/11,” she explains. “I felt a drive to right the wrongs done to our country.”

Jessica continues to serve in the Army and works in logistics, her field of expertise since graduating from college.

Like many veterans we serve it is the camaraderie Rebecca shares with other military personnel that she values above all.

“I most enjoy the community of military service, the new friends that become like family at every new assignment, and the people and families you see again and again throughout our careers.”

Right time, right place

Serving in the Army is extremely gratifying to Jessica, but it is not her only source of fulfillment.

“My husband and I have three young kids and we are still living the active duty Army life.”

It can be challenging for military children to cope with the uncertainties associated with having one or both parents are in service.

April is designated Month of the Military Child in an effort to recognize and address the unique experiences of children with parents who serve.

As it happens, dogs and cats can help children cope with the stresses of military life. They help fill the void of a deployed parent or guardian, and provide many physical and emotional benefits – including reduced anxiety and depression.

Jessica and her husband both grew up with pets and the couple was eager for their children know the joy of a pet sibling. But for years they put off plans to adopt a companion pet due to the demands of Rebecca’s military service.

“We love pets, but move a lot,” she shares, “so we had to wait for the right time.”

And when the time came it would be a special needs cat who tugged on Jessica’s heartstrings.

Waiting is the hardest part

It was late August 2020 and Jessica’s long wait was nearly over.

“For almost three years I had been feeling we needed a cat or dog to join our family,” she shares. “My husband and I always had them growing up and wanted to share that experience with my children.”

The Army soldier learned about Pets for Patriots and our companion pet adoption program for military veterans through one of our local partners, Virginia Beach SPCA. The shelter serves a community that is home to a large number of active, separated, and retired military personnel.

Virginia Beach SPCA offers veterans in our program a 25 percent adoption fee discount and access to their affordable veterinary clinic without proof of income eligibility.

Jessica appreciated the benefits we offer, but was moved by our focus on dogs and cats who are harder to place due to age, special needs, or other factors.

“When I found this program I was so grateful and appreciated they were encouraging veterans to find that companionship, but also to help the pets that are sometimes not the first choice for folks.”

The soldier and the special needs cat

At the time Minerva was a four year-old tabby cat in the care of the Virginia Beach SPCA.

The special needs cat had a history of sterile cystitis, a type of feline urinary tract disease. Treatment includes a special diet for life and eliminating environmental stressors that contribute to the condition.

Army soldier welcomes special needs cat into her young military family

Many would-be adopters shy away from pets like Minerva due to concerns about cost, the animal’s longevity, or inconveniences associated with their care.

But Jessica has never been one to shrink from challenges – she embraces them.

So on the very same day that the career soldier was approved into our program she signed Minerva’s adoption contract and brought her home.

Minerva the wise

Minerva’s addition to the family went as well as could be expected. Even the most well-mannered pets may need some retraining when they are adopted.

This special needs cat would be no different.

“A few little things here and there to adjust to with having a new pet,” Jessica shares, “but we are extremely happy with our choice and very grateful for the support your program provides.”

The special needs tabby cat loves to be pet and explore every nook and cranny of her new home. Like most cats, she fancies hiding on occasion as well, which has led to a favorite pastime for Jessica.

“I like taking photos of her in all her weird hideouts,” she shares.

But it is Minerva’s relationship with everyone in the household that Jessica loves most of all. Her children now have the same opportunity she had growing up to share their lives with a companion pet.

“Minerva has made a huge impact on every member of our family,” Jessica says. “She’s a great snuggler, wanting to sleep and snuggle with someone every night. She’s very vocal, sometimes at four or five am – but we love her personality.”

Take a chance on me

Our program’s focus on the most overlooked shelter dogs and cats is intended to inspire veterans to consider those animals most at risk of death or chronic homelessness.

Army soldier welcomes special needs cat into her young military family

With some exceptions, puppies and kittens rarely need additional incentives for people to adopt them. Yet the animals who are older, have medical needs, or who have been in the shelter for months or even years are the ones who need heroes the most.

Minerva is one special needs cat who found her hero: a career soldier who decided that adopting a special needs cat was not an act of sympathy, but of love.

Jessica credits Pets for Patriots with inspiring her to consider a cat who most adopters simply pass by.

“This program is so great, I would definitely recommend it. It encouraged us to look for a more mature pet and she is a great fit for us,” she says. “They are so giving and generous and follow up frequently to ensure your new pet family is doing well. The discounts are great also, especially if you are welcoming a pet with special needs as we chose to.”


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