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Cat Stories

FIV Needn’t Be A Death Sentence

FIV Needn't be a death sentence

I’ve met many stray felines over the years, and each and every one of them has taught me something.  A cat we now affectionately call ‘Fat Louie’ is definitely no exception. Learn what he taught me about Living Well with FIV as we look Beyond the Diagnosis.

His was the typical extremely sad life of a feral cat in America – along with millions of others of his kind.  He was the offspring of someone’s neglected, abandoned, and un-neutered pet – forced to fend for himself since birth, forced to rummage through trash bins and dumpsters to survive yet one more miserable day, and always forced to hide in the deep dark shadows in fear of mankind’s utter callousness and cruelty.

I found him one day, along with several other feral felines, desperately scavenging for food in a huge industrial dumpster located near a lakeshore.  And since that day of discovery, Louie has taught me many valuable lessons.

The Feeding Colony Expands

I began feeding this particular feral colony of starving cats, live-trapping and neutering them, and showing them the first tiny bit of compassion that any of them had ever witnessed from a human being. And from Day One, there was just something special about this particular grey-striped cat.

From Day One, Louie was always the first in the feral colony to spot my old truck, to rush out from his hiding place to greet me, and to very patiently wait for some delectable food to be displayed.

Living Well with FIV: Beyond the Diagnosis:

Louie always ate with the utter joy of one dining in an elegant gourmet restaurant, and after dining, he always displayed his sheer gratitude for yet one more meal by affectionately rubbing up against my legs, and by purring his feline heart out.

His feral colony friends, however, always remained very aloof and very wary; extremely grateful for another meal, yet knowing full well the immense cruelty that we humans are so sadly capable of displaying towards them at any second.

But Louie had for some reason very quickly decided to throw all caution to the wind, and he was extremely willing to place his trust in me; so one day, I decided to return the favour. 

Former Feral? Not yet….

One day, after Louie had dined, I picked him up and gently placed him in my truck.  I told him that he was finally going to get a home, and he quickly looked up at me, purred in deep appreciation, and soon fell fast asleep on the front passenger seat of my truck.

The first stop on Louie’s new journey, however, would be at my veterinarian’s office.  It was time for his neutering, needed vaccinations, and complete medical examination prior to taking him home.  I happily left him there with my vet, and I eagerly went home to prepare for his arrival.

Then the telephone call came from my veterinarian that I had never expected:

“Ed, I’m sorry to tell you that Louie has tested positive for FIV – Feline Immunodeficiency Virus – and in cases like this – the best option is to humanely put him down.”

I couldn’t even respond at first – I had never expected such horrifying news, and I eventually blurted out, “Please keep him there for a few days while I do some research on FIV, and I’ll call you back.”

It just didn’t seem right, or fair, to me that this extremely docile, lovable, stray cat had to be put down just because he had a virus, so I very quickly decided to learn everything that I could about FIV, and I’m extremely glad that I did.  I also have Louie to thank for learning something new.  I hope I keep learning new things the rest of my life.

Learning About FIV

I soon discovered that FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) is a ‘lentivirus,’ meaning that it’s a disease that progresses very slowly, gradually affecting a cat’s immune system. It is passed from one cat to another through blood transfusions, and through saliva from deep, penetrating, bite wounds – mainly caused by stray, un-neutered, male cats – just like Louie.

The most well-known lentivirus in humans is called HIV. But the two are not at all the same, and I soon learned that neither humans nor dogs can get FIV from a cat. In fact, the only thing about FIV that humans can often catch is unwarranted fear, and terrible mis-information.

I also soon learned that as long as cats with FIV are not exposed to diseases that their immune systems can’t handle, they can live out perfectly normal lives – if only we allow them to. And they can only pass this virus on to other felines through deep penetrating bites.

Every stray cat that I’ve ever taken into my home my entire life has been extremely docile, extremely grateful to finally have a home to call their own, and extremely willing to accept any other strays in their midst.

So, with this knowledge and understanding about FIV now in hand, I very quickly decided that Louie should not be an exception, and I brought him home.

Living Well with FIV: Beyond the Diagnosis

Louie’s been with us over three years now, and he is one of the best cats that we’ve ever had.

And from Day One, my other former feline orphans and street urchins have readily accepted him, as he has them.

And for the last three years, I’ve never regretted my decision to give this former feral feline another chance at life.

Today, we affectionately call him ‘Fat Louie’ around our home because he truly loves to eat, and he has truly become one very huge, extremely loving, constantly purring grey furball.

As soon as Fat Louie spots either me or my wife, he very excitedly waddles up to us, begins purring his furry feline heart out, does a very enthusiastic feline love dance all around our feet, and then joyously plops over on his back in anticipation of what he loves even more than food these days – a long soft tummy rub and tickle.

We all now love our Fat Louie, the former feral feline who just happens to have FIV, and our home simply wouldn’t be the same without him.  And he loves all of us – unconditionally – with every ounce of his now pleasantly plump feline heart and soul.

I’ve also learned that FIV was only discovered and diagnosed about 15 years ago, so most medical experts today agree that prior to this time, many cat lovers had FIV positive cats in their homes, never even knew it, and loved them anyway.

So if you’re thinking about adopting a cat with FIV, or if a cat that you’ve had and loved for some time has very recently been diagnosed with FIV, please think about our Fat Louie, and please do some research on this disease yourself – before agreeing to what I now believe are far too many death sentences – for far too many extremely loving cats – who just happen to have an immune system virus called FIV.

“Time spent with any cat, Is never wasted.” – Colette

©2007, Ed Kostro

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