Oliver is the Sanctuary cuddle-champion!
We have a number of cuddly cats – often thanks to the work of the team of Kitty Comforters, who focus their attention on the caged, or shy, or newer cats.
Some cats, of course have come to us because they are NOT cuddly – Eli, Jobie, and many others are beautiful to look at, and occasionally allow themselves to be petted, but they’re not lap-cats, and they object to being picked up and fussed over if they’re not in the mood. And when their objection gets labelled as “aggression”, they end up with us.
Oliver is very much a people boy, and loves to be picked up and held. His problem is that he suffers from feline herpes virus.
The most common virus, as we humans know, is probably the cold. And the more people you have together, the more a cold gets passed around. Mostly it runs its course, and the body recovers; sometimes we fight through it; sometimes we curl up and sleep it off. It’s the same for cats – the various cold germs that inevitably float around will affect cats from time to time. Mostly they have minimal effect; occasionally a cat will be snotty-nosed or congested enough that a period in a cage for treatment is recommended.
Sometimes the cold stays in the cat’s system – sweet Tibet is often sneezy; Ridley has to be watched for recurring congestion. Some of them may carry this feline herpes virus, but for them the effects are minimal. In extreme cases, the eyes are also affected, with lesions in and around the eyes, and eye ulcers. These viruses are specific to cats – humans are not affected by them.
We understand that Oliver contracted herpes virus in utero; we have no knowledge about the rest of his litter-mates, but he has been under care since being a kitten. His eyes are severely affected, and his vision impaired, though not enough to prevent him getting around easily. During his initial cage-period with us he constantly called for someone to come and sit with him, and give him some fussing. Not long after release, some dental work was needed, and much to his annoyance, he had another cage-stay.
Now Oliver’s out and about again. If things are busy, he’ll find a corner where he can curl up till someone can pay him attention; as soon as a lap’s available, he’s ready to be held – he prefers the upright posture against a shoulder where he can nuzzle into a neck or into hair. Flare-ups of the virus can be provoked by stress, but now Oliver’s assimilated himself into the feline population, he seems to be doing very well.
Oliver would be at his best in an only-cat home (or one with another herpes virus cat) where he could get lots of attention, but where his humans were aware of his health issues. Ideally, cats with herpes virus shouldn’t be around other cats – it’s not as dangerous as the feline leukemia virus, but for cats with a compromised immune system, any infection is a bad idea. But we’re simply not able to cage all the virus-carrying cats in the Sanctuary; we rely on staff and volunteer awareness about washing hands and bedding, and on the fact that so many of those cats wander freely outside in the courtyard and the back pens.
Oliver is the sweetest most affectionate boy ever at the Sanctuary, and joins Emery in being a cat whose cuddles give as much comfort as he gets.
February 2020 – I am happy to report that Oliver has been adopted by the parents of one of our volunteers. They know that he will always need a little more care, but that it’s more than balanced by all the love he will give!