I think most of our volunteers would agree that we can deal with any amount of scooping poop, mopping up throw-up, washing stinky bedding, and so on – the hardest thing at the Sanctuary is when we lose a cat. Sometimes it comes out of the blue; sometimes we know it’s coming – whichever, it always hurts. And for those of us that love the leukemia cats, we know that it’s inevitable – we keep them happy and healthy as long as we can, but the virus is hard on their systems. But losing a cat very often means that we have space to welcome a new one, to give it attention, and reassure it that it will be cared for by loving hands.
Bibi and the cat we think was possibly her mother, Brenda, came to us at the Five Road Shelter as strays, trapped and brought to us by a Richmond resident. Both girls were filthy – infested with fleas, anemic and emaciated – and the older one had deformed paws and no bladder control. When tested, it was found that Bibi was FeLV-positive, and she was transferred to the Sanctuary. Unfortunately Brenda’s condition didn’t improve and her prognosis was poor, so sadly the Shelter staff had to have her put down.
While at the Shelter, Bibi was terrified; she cowered in her cage and never felt comfortable enough to lift her head or explore. Within a few weeks of being with us she was peeping out from behind her drape, and accepting treats (though she would quickly vanish behind the drape again!)
When she was finally released into the room, Bibi decided discretion was the better part of valour, and she went to ground in the little space between the armchair and the cage. Well-meaning volunteers set up her own little feeding station, but that just encouraged her to continue hiding. In fact, when the treat offered is tempting enough (chicken is favoured), Bibi is quite happy to emerge and be served – she’s just a little wary of some of the larger cats.
The vacated cage was quickly allocated to another new resident. Eva came to us from another shelter. She had been diagnosed FeLV, and her family had other cats and were unable to keep her separate. Because leukemia is transmitted in saliva, you either need to have ALL leukemia cats or NO leukemia cats – unlike FIV (Feline Aids) cats, who can live happily with FIV-negative cats as long as the cats get on and don’t fight.
Eva quickly endeared herself to the volunteers, but is obviously not entirely happy with us – Merlin and Dexter are alpha males who like things to go their way, and she does not appreciate their company! She likes to have her own space, with a little human attention – like our late and beloved Yoda, I find she’s another of those cats who likes to sit behind me and play with my hair. Visitors are encouraged to spend time with her; she’s not really food-motivated, but a little conversation and gentle petting makes her feel much better about life at the Sanctuary.