Flourishing with FIV
The Twelfth Save of Christmas 2017: Gabriel
Flourishing with FIV
A woman who had just rented a room in a home, found a white cat in her new backyard. He was very friendly but thin (9.1 pounds) and was very unthrifty looking with most of his fur having been scratched out due to fleas. She fed him and fell in love with him. Palo Alto Humane had an outreach program which got him neutered, wormed, combo tested for her. A “combo test” test for both Feline Leukemia (FeLV) and the Feline Immunological Virus (FIV) and Gabriel tested positive for FIV. Then, unfortunately, her landlord said “Either he goes or you go”. She asked everyone for help for him but no rescue offered to take him. It was kitten season and he was a shabby FIV+ cat who would be hard to adopt out. This woman grew increasingly desperate – she did not want to put him back out on the street and I am sure she knew enough to worry about the life expectancy of a FIV+ cat in a shelter, especially in kitten season. What could she do? The email I saw said “Cat in desperate need of help” I felt so sorry for this kind woman, as well as for this hard luck cat, so I said “Ok, I will take him”.
I would like to digress for a moment and mention the new research being done on FIV. The old idea that FIV+ is a dreadful illness necessitating that a cat be isolated from all other cats or put down immediately is now being refuted by the conclusions of new studies. This research states that FIV+ mother cats do not transmit the virus to their kittens (only transmitting the mom’s own transitory antibodies), that FIV cats live on average as long as other cats, and that the virus is very unlikely to be spread from an FIV+ cat to another family cat if both have been altered. Research is indicating that cats who share food and water bowls and who mutually groom each other do not transmit FIV to each other. Only serious biting fights (like two Tom cats fighting over a female) can do that and that almost never ever happens with two altered cats. You can read about this new research here: http://www.catster.com/lifestyle/cat-health-vet-study-fiv-positive-cats-living-together
The point is that what has killed thousands and thousands and thousands of FIV+ cats and kittens over the years is not at all due to the illness itself but rather the fact that because we have not understood this illness, humans have continually euthanized these cats. How wonderful it is that studies are now showing that this old protocol and constant euthanasia of FIV+ cats is not in any way appropriate.
I have found wonderful homes for FIV+ cats before. My adopters have studied up online and determined that the FIV+ status of a cat they want would not keep them from adopting that cat. Most have had other cats in their home. The minute we got Gabriel his super loving personality showed me that he would attract his home with ease. He loves strangers, he loves everybody. We fed him well and now he weighs 13 pounds 5 ounces! This is about the right size for this big boy. We gave him all sorts of supplements including DHA, B-12, probiotics and lysine and immune support. He flourished. We all loved him and cuddled with him. His winter coat has grown in since we got him and it is now lush and silkily beautiful. His ruff is becoming magnificent. He showed us he had an allergy to corn and chicken (as well as fleas) so he has been on a limited ingredient diet of duck and pea and his itchy, crusty skin has gone away.
He was ready to go home when LeRoy and Sami drove for hours to meet him. Of course he was utterly adorable and let them hold him on a shoulder forever. This couple had had two cats just exactly like him, the last of which recently died. Heartbroken, they didn’t plan to get cats again until they saw his picture. Completely unfamiliar with FIV and a little spooked, they asked what special care he needed. I said keep his immune system strong with good food, good vet care, keep him inside and out of stress, and give him lots and lots of love. This is really what you would do for any cat. They called again concerned because the local kennel would not accept FIV+ cats. I called the kennel. They thought “the virus would get in the cedar of their walls despite the fact that they bleached those walls.” Old style thinking. I didn’t argue and simply called other places who said “Yes of course.” Reassured, this couple could not wait to come meet him. He will be their only pet and the very center of their world. They have already sent photos and an update of how really thrilled they are with him. How perfect to know he will take good care of his new family and be safe and loved for the rest of his life.
The point of adopting any cat is to save its life and enrich your own. Education for things like FIV is always available and knowledgeable people adopt as freely as anyone else. Gabriel will have the advantage of having knowledgeable people to care for him and he will have a long happy life as a result. We couldn’t ask for anything more for him.