A lot of people would be scared to adopt a cat like Sienna, Colt, or Dharma.
They’re carriers of the feline leukemia virus (FeLV).
Many people think a positive FeLV test means a cat can’t live a good life. Well-meaning vets and friends sometimes counsel the caretakers of FeLV-positive cats to get rid of them, or have them euthanized before they get sick.
Joni Gallo didn’t listen to that advice. Instead, she turned what could have been a tragedy into a mission: to educate others about FeLV and encourage them to give FeLV-positive cats a chance to have a happy, loving home.
It all started when she brought her new kitten to the vet for his first checkup. Sienna, a gorgeous cream-colored 3-month-old kitten, had been found in an abandoned house with his mother, and Joni couldn’t let him stay there. But her heart broke when her vet called to tell her that Sienna had tested positive for FeLV.
Joni was advised not to keep Sienna, but she knew what his fate would have been if he had gone to a shelter: being killed, or living a life without ever finding a real home nobody would want him because of his disease.
A month later, she found out that her other cats, Colt, Dharma, and Karma carried the virus, too.
Although Sienna, Dharma, and Karma have crossed the Rainbow Bridge, Colt remains healthy. Joni adopted another FeLV-positive cat, Gabriel, to keep him company.
There are lots of things that people can do to help FeLV-positive cats stay healthy and enjoy a good life, and Joni has made it her life’s work to teach people about the joys and struggles of life with feline leukemia.
“Cats with the feline leukemia virus face a tough struggle. They do not need the added burden of people’s ignorance and fear,” she wrote.
Amen, Joni, and thank you!