RAPS Cat Sanctuary is a forever home for most residents – but that doesn’t mean some of them wouldn’t be happy to go home with you … even if they are living with a chronic condition.
One of the conditions under which people may adopt cats from RAPS Adoption Centre is that the cat remain an indoor pet. Some people find this a very hard condition, and stretch it to teaching the cat to wear a harness and leash, or building a “catio” for outside ventures. But it’s a condition that we will continue to ask for, because outside life for a cat is a risky business.
Dillon (KN)Not only are there perils like traffic, coyotes, poison (and poisoned prey), but other cats they encounter may be dangerous to them. This is because of two viral conditions that are common to ferals and strays. Both present no danger to humans but, to varying degrees, will compromise the feline immune system. These are Feline Leukemia (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV or “feline AIDS”). There is no medication available to cure a cat once it is infected – all we can do is treat the secondary infections.
FeLV is the more dangerous of the two, severely compromising the immune system, and transmitted via the cat’s saliva. For that reason, the Leukemia cats at the RAPS Cat Sanctuary are kept separate and we follow careful sanitation protocols with them – not to protect ourselves, but to prevent them from catching something we might bring into their enclosure.
FIV is transmitted only through blood, and is often found among feral male cats, who fight each other over females, territory and food sources. Infected female cats may pass the virus to their kittens in utero; of our 40 or so FIV cats at our Sanctuary, only four are female.
There are three stages to FIV: an initial acute phase as the virus replicates rapidly; an asymptomatic phase which may last for years; and a progressive phase in which secondary infections occur – skin, mouth, eyes, respiratory or urinary problems are all common in this stage. Visitors are often surprised to see this healthy bunch of cats being kept apart, but it’s easier for the med staff to keep an eye on them for secondary issues when they’re all together like this. Accepted wisdom holds that FIV-positive cats should not have contact with FIV-negative ones but, in fact, when there is no aggression between cats, there can be no transmission. The story of Simba and Jack is a good reminder that FIV doesn’t need to divide good buddies.
So, though not kept in the Adoption Centre, there are several of our FIV cats who are eminently adoptable – and who, if they bonded with resident cats, could live in a mixed household.
Tuxedo Angus has been on Petfinder for some time; he’s a sweet boy, living in the New AIDS section, and struggling a bit with some of the strong purr-sonalities there. You will often find him buried under a blanket as he shuts out the world, and he’s happy to come for petting and love – if he can do so without Domino getting in the way. He’s a happy lap-sitter/bread-maker!
Sleek black Obelix came to us several years ago, and is related to the calico crew in the front courtyard. He was very shy for some time, and still tends to hold back until he knows and trusts you – at which point he is excited to come for petting and treats.
The cats who live in the Val Jones corner are also FIV-positive, and most of them are friendly and sociable. There are three that are immediately adoptable, and they’re all black. Dillon came from the same source as Chai,Kahlua and Dominique, in the main courtyard. He’s pretty cat-friendly, and is definitely pro-human – willing to come out and visit. His buddy Charles was quickly adopted. Longer-haired Gizmo is a very different Gizmo from the grey Back Courtyard guy – this Gizmo is friendly and sociable and there’s been no hint of grey–Gizmo’s erratic temper. Unfortunately, he is already showing some mouth problems, and it may be better to keep him where he has quick access to RAPS medical attention.
One other boy in the Val Jones is a shoo-in for adoptability – he’s the first to climb into a lap, and give love – but he’s also the most loving cat to other cats in the pen. Jim arrived with his beloved buddy Frank more than two years ago; we lost Frank last year. Jim now snuggles with everyone – even grumpy Magnus plays with him. He has been the comforter for scared Minuet, and helped bring her to a point where we can touch her. For the health of the Val Jones community, Jim may be a permanent fixture!
The third black boy is new, and much younger – Raymond is about four years old, and has only recently arrived at RAPS from another rescue. He is an outgoing and very affectionate boy with lots of love to give. Shelter Manager Shena says, “He truly is a real sweetheart and would love a family of his own. He loves chatting and has a lot to say. He is very easy-going and enjoys laying sprawled out across the window ledge looking at all the sights. He is polydactyl, which means if you love toe beans, he has an extra one for you to love.”
All our black boys also suffer from black-cat-syndrome – they are easily overlooked for more colourful kitties. But any black-cat lover will tell you that it usually takes only a little time to uncover the purr-sonality behind all that black fur – and that you will be the lucky one indeed if you take one of these guys to your heart, despite their FIV diagnosis.
Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Lisa Brill-Friesen, Brigid Coult & Karen Nicholson
Feature Image: Angus by Karen Nicholson