A couple of years ago, one of my beloved family members needed a life-saving blood transfusion. That family member happened to have four feet, whiskers, and a tail.
Until that day, I had no idea that pet blood banks existed. But they do, and they’re in desperate need of feline donors. I became aware of pet blood banks again recently when I saw a poster on a bulletin board at my office. ACCES, a veterinary specialty and emergency clinic in Seattle, maintains a blood bank for dogs and cats, and they were recruiting donors from the many healthy dogs and cats who come to work with my colleagues every day. Then, a couple of weeks ago, I was talking to a customer who told me that a blood transfusion had saved her dog’s life after a botched surgery caused internal bleeding.
"I’m always telling people all about the pet blood bank in my city," she said. When I told her I write for Caster, she told me, "You’ve got to get the word out and let people know how important pet blood donors are."
I really wanted to sign Thomas and Belladonna up to be blood donors. They’re healthy cats and I’d be delighted to know they’re helping to save other kitties’ lives. The trouble is, they don’t meet the guidelines.
ACCES requires feline blood donors to be healthy and well-behaved, weigh at least 10 pounds, be between one and six years old, and live indoors only. They also have to be current on vaccines, not be taking any long-term medications, never have had a blood transfusion, and never have been used for breeding.
Thomas meets all the guidelines except one: He’s 13 years old. Belladonna meets all the guidelines, but she weighs about eight pounds and probably isn’t going to get any bigger. Also, her history of juvenile diabetes might be a hindrance, even though she’s been in remission for close to two years now.
You and your cat benefit from being blood donors, too: Cats used as donors get free annual blood work — I don’t know how much that costs where you live, but here in Seattle it can run a cool $200 for a comprehensive blood panel — and short checkups, and many clinics that do blood banking allow donors to get one free blood transfusion. The blood test results are forwarded to your regular veterinarian so they’ll stay in your cat’s records.
I did a little more research and found out that cat blood is always in critically short supply, particularly the rarer types B and AB. I’m sure cats’ legendary unwillingness to travel, let alone go to the vet, is a factor in this. But an equally strong contributing factor is that few people know about blood banks for cats.
So, what can you do? If you’ve got a large and mellow cat, please think seriously about allowing him or her to be a blood donor. Ask your veterinarian if he or she knows of a pet blood bank in your area. If not, do a web search to find out what your options are. I’m willing to bet there are more of them than you thought.
Because cats need to be sedated to donate blood, you will probably need to drop your cat off in the morning and pick her up later in the day. I’m sure the blood bank will send you home with lots of treats for your little hero!
Has your cat been a blood donor or received a transfusion? Would you register your cat as a blood donor? Did you even know there was such a thing as a feline blood bank before you read this article? Let’s talk in the comments!
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About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.