Monday, August 16, 2010

Our FIV friends deserve a home, too!

Last month I found myself taking in another poor kitty who had been tossed aside and abandoned by society. Lucky, a severely matted cream and tan long haired kitty with large sad eyes, had started coming around my home.

He was nearly starved to death when we came across him, and had a terribly swollen and infected paw with a huge gash in it. Finally, after several attempts to get close to him, he gave in and let us pick him up. After a bath and several extensive grooming sessions, a soft adorable cat had appeared.

Shortly after, I had his paw doctored up and got with getting neutered, vaccinated, micro chipped, and tested for diseases. He did test positive for FIV, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus , which wasn't a surprise since FIV is mainly transmitted between cats sexually, or through deep bites. Lucky had a lot of open wounds and also wasn't fixed, so I had suspected that he might be infected.

Since my goal for Lucky was to find him a loving home of his own, I knew that testing positive might be an obstacle. People might be a little scared off, as at one point I was. Years ago, when we lived downtown, my husband and I took in a small ragged little tabby who was desperately in need of a home. Although at the time we were not technically allowed to have another pet, I could not resist any longer and had to take him in. He jumped into my arms, and we were best friends from then on! He was so small we just naturally started calling him Tiny. I wanted to get him checked before mixing him into our other cats, so I took him to the closest animal clinic.

They tested him for FIV, and his test was positive. I knew nothing about the virus, and at first the diagnosis sounded a little scary. The vet there made it sound like Tiny was going to have an awful existence and the humane thing to do would be to euthanize him there on the spot. That seemed rash, so I wanted to get a second opinion. Soon after, I took Tiny to another animal clinic. They had confirmed that he was infected, but our new vet was hopeful and put my concerns to rest. She explained things to me.

People cannot get it, and as far as my other cats that were at home they would be fine as long as they were all fixed, since that lowers a cat’s desire to fight. If for some reason there was any fighting going on, there would be a slim chance of someone else getting it. But it would be hard, as there would have to be a deep wound involved, and a lot of blood shared. My new vet said that she had feline patients who were healthy and living with FIV for years. The FIV negative cats were never infected and everyone seemed to get along. With relief, we took him in. We were so glad we did!

Although at first glance he was not the most attractive cat, he was abnormally huggy and it didn't take long for him to charm anyone who came over for a visit. Soon our friends and family quickly became fans of our sweet little alley cat! He became a special favorite with my nieces. They would even dress him up and he would sit there and happily participate. We knew his immune system was more delicate, so we always kept a close eye on him, although he really didn't need any special treatment. He live with us, a healthy and happy cat, for over 8 years.

But then one day during the Spring Super Adoption of 2008, he suddenly started to get weak and hid under the bathroom sink. I took him into my vet to get examined, but his health was sadly deteriorating quickly. He peacefully died early that next morning.

Although that weekend, I had helped hundreds of other animals find homes, my heart was broken and I could only think about him. I was so glad we had given him a chance and that he had 8 full years to live his short but meaningful life. Ever since then, every time I see that corner of the patio where he liked to sun bathe, a little part of me imagines him there, and I miss him. He loved sitting under the potted plants that we put out every summer.

I am so glad our vet told us to give our Tiny a chance and a loving home. He brought do much joy to our lives and I can't imagine not giving him a chance.

If you’re considering adopting a cat, I encourage you to not overlook the wonderful FIV kitties that are available. We have some especially wonderful cats up for adoption in our program, such as Frankie, who are just waiting to give you lots of love—just like Tiny gave to us!

Maranda Hawkes
Volunteer Coordinator


  1. I love Frankie! He deserves a great home.

  2. I wish everyone was as willing to adopt FIV+ cats as you are.

  3. Reading that got me completely teary, as Tiny was my favorite feline nephew EVER. And frankly, one of my favorite felines ever. I am SO glad that you adopted him. I will NEVER overlook a cat due to FIV. :)

  4. That was really informative, thank you! I didn't fully understand FIV before now, I thought you had to keep infected cats separate from uninfected cats. The next time I am ready to adopt another kitty, I won't overlook the FIV+ ones :)