Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the July/August 2015 issue of Catster print magazine. Click here to subscribe to Catster magazine.
Since the day Tabby’s Place opened its doors in 2003, the staff members and leaders have had a heart for cats who test positive for felineimmunodeficiency virus, or FIV.
“This virus disables or destroys the white blood cells and leaves the cat susceptible to infections,” said Angela Townsend, development director of the cat sanctuary in Ringoes, New Jersey . “Once a cat is infected with FIV, he has the virus for life and can transmit the virus if he bites another cat.”
As you might expect, being FIV-positive can be a serious problem for a cat in a shelter. Enter the FIV-positive suite at Tabby’s Place, currently home to 11 cats — plus two more lucky felines who live in the executive director’s office. Most of the suite’s feline residents come from what Angela called “hopeless situations.”
“Many are found outside, such as Knox, a tiny gray tabby found in the dead of winter and brought to the shelter by a good Samaritan,” Angela said. “Others come from crowded public shelters.”
When a cat is accepted into the FIV-positive suite at Tabby’s Place — which occurs on a first-come, first-served basis — she receives a thorough medical exam and treatment during a standard three-week quarantine period. The staff also ensures that her vaccines are up to date, treats her for parasites, screens her for ringworm and other contagious dis- eases, and “generally ensures that she’s in good health before joining her new buddies,” Angela explained.
When it’s time to introduce the kitty to her new roommates, the folks at Tabby’s Place take their time.
“Generally, a new cat starts out in a large crate, where she can see and smell her neighbors without having to interact with them directly,” Angela said, noting that this allows staff to monitor the cat’s food intake and watch her reactions to the other cats. “Once the newcomer is eating well and seems fairly settled (usually two to four days), we’ll let her out to officially join the suite.”
Although they remain positive for FIV, all the suite’s residents are available for adoption.
“FIV-positive cats can live normal and healthy lives,” Angela said. “Although cats can live with FIV for many happy, healthy years, the condition tends to scare away potential adopters.”
Luckily, that wasn’t the case for Thomas and Jimmy, two suite residents who won the heart of a woman who visited right before Christmas several years ago.
“She was catless for the first time in a long time, so we asked if she would consider an FIV-positive cat,” Angela recalled. “She considered two. It was a Christmas miracle.”
Such success stories inspire the staff members at Tabby’s Place and remind them why they create spaces such as the FIV-positive suite.
“We want to make a love connection whenever possible,” Angela said. “And just when we think we have an ‘unadoptable’ cat, someone comes along and amazes us with their capacity to love these cats.”
About the author: A lifelong cat owner, Stacy N. Hackett writes frequently about cats, cat breeds, and a range of pet-related topics. A big source of inspiration for her writing comes from her two cats: Jack, a 6-year-old red tabby domestic shorthair, and Phillip, a 2-year-old gray-and-white domestic shorthair. Both cats were adopted from local pet store adoption events, and both bring a lot of personality and love to a household that also contains two teenagers. Stacy also is “stepmom” to a wonderful Cocker Spaniel/ Labrador Retriever mix named Maggie, as well as two brown tabby domestic shorthairs named Katie and Leroy.