When you visit Purrfect Pals for the first time, you might have a tough time figuring out which of the sanctuary rooms houses the cats that are supposedly sick. What you’ll find in FIV Land is a bunch of big, friendly, apparently healthy cats that greet every visitor with delight and would be perfect additions to almost any household. You might end your visit puzzled by why these cats are so much harder to adopt out. One answer to that question is the wealth of misinformation that is out there regarding FIV.
FIV+ cats are still routinely euthanized in many, if not most, shelters and by many veterinarians. Yet, in shelters like Purrfect Pals where these cats are given long term sanctuary and even adopted out, the truth becomes evident: many FIV+ cats will live completely normal lives free of any symptoms associated with the virus. Most will live normal lives and never be diagnosed because they don’t get sick or aren’t taken to a vet.
Cats with FIV typically remain free of symptoms for many years. Eventually, infection can lead to a state of immune deficiency that makes the cat vulnerable to viruses, parasites and fungi found commonly in the environment. These secondary infections are responsible for many of the diseases associated with FIV. FIV+ cats that remain in a shelter setting are much more likely to end up suffering from some of these diseases (upper respiratory infections, for example) than cats protected from infection in a home. In the later stages of FIV, a number of problems are possible, with inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) and mouth (stomatitis) most common. A painful mouth can lead to persistent weight loss. Various kinds of cancer and blood diseases are somewhat more common in FIV+ cats than they are in otherwise healthy cats; neurological symptoms like seizures are also possible. High quality nutrition and regular dental cleanings are important to support good health in FIV+ cats.
We all know that every time you take into your heart and home an animal, you’re also taking the risk that it has a hidden health problem. No animal’s health can be guaranteed, any more than the health of a child can be. Do FIV+ cats have a higher risk of developing one of these problems? Yes. Is that risk high enough to make them unadoptable? No. The cats currently in FIV-Land have quirky, happy, gentle, crazy, lovable personalities. Each is an individual that deserves the best possible life.
FIV+ cats that come to Purrfect Pals have the security of a lifelong home in our FIV Land sanctuary, should they need it. We do our best to make their lives as happy as possible. They have an outdoor window box to sun themselves in and plenty of cat towers and toys. We feed them a high quality diet of dry and canned food and keep their room scrupulously clean. Staff and volunteers visit them daily for play and cuddle sessions. Even so, life as a sanctuary cat is not the same as living in a home with a loving family. Also, we can only continue to rescue FIV+ cats if we have room for more in the sanctuary.
The best possible outcome for an FIV+ Purrfect Pals cat is to be adopted. How do we encourage someone that the risks outweigh the rewards, though? We recognize that adopting an FIV+ cat is a big commitment. Vet bills can add up when you own a cat prone to dental challenges and upper respiratory infections. The solution that we came up with was our “Permanent Foster” program. All of our cats who are infected with FIV or Leukemia are placed through this arrangement. Permanent Foster families commit to providing their kitties with a lifelong home but Purrfect Pals continues to provide medical care, special diets and medication if needed. Having the support of our veterinary staff, who are very experienced caring for FIV cats, provides comfort and security for Permanent Foster parents.
The next time you find yourself with a few hours to spare, please consider coming to spend it with the cats in FIV Land. They have the feather toy ready and are looking forward to your visit!
Would you like to become a monthly sponsor for one of the special kitties who live in FIV Land? Please click the “Sponsor Me” button on their page to set up a automatic monthly donation (or email our Accountant for more information)!