A few months ago, my pup Ozzy and I were enjoying the last days of summer with a walk around the backyard, when I heard a faint noise coming from the woods separating our house from our neighbor’s. As I walked closer, I realized the noise was a cat meowing. After about an hour of searching for the kitty, I went inside, grabbed some food, put it out near where I heard the meowing and waited. Eventually, a beautiful brown tabby came hesitantly out of the woods towards the food.
For the next few months, Sprout (named after a Hufflepuff ‘Harry Potter’ character for his sweet nature and love of food), my husband and I established a companionship, and our other animals came to know him as the “estranged brother in the woods.” We made him an outdoor home, a winter home and he received food, treats and love at the same time every day. There were even days when our cat Anakin would alert us of Sprout’s presence, as Sprout lounged on the outdoor couch on our front porch.
He was a part of our family, but we had a dilemma: We would be moving at the end of the year and didn’t know what to do with Sprout. Where we were moving had a large coyote presence, but we also couldn’t bear the thought of leaving him behind at our current home. Even though Sprout is around five years old and has lived his whole life outdoors, he craved human attention and our little routine, and we knew he would do well in a home.
We came up with a plan to incorporate him into our home, but the first step was medical care (something we were already going to do if he remained outdoors). I was able to get Sprout into a pet carrier instead of a humane trap, attesting to his sweet nature, and took him to work where he received ‘the works:’ neuter, microchip, rabies vaccination, FIV/FelV test and cat distemper. Despite his life outdoors, Sprout was virtually healthy, but there was one obstacle – he was FIV+.
If you don’t know what this means, FIV is a ‘feline immunodeficiency virus,’ which is only transferred through deep bite wounds, or, occasionally, if a mother cat is FIV+ and it carries down to her young. This affects only 1.5-3% of the cat population (depending on region), but is most prevalent in outdoor, intact males, who have territorial fights with other outdoor cats. Unfortunately, this was Sprout’s story.
The virus is similar to a human autoimmune disorder, where their bodies can’t differentiate between good and bad bacteria, so illnesses should be treated immediately by a veterinary professional to avoid complications. However, through keeping FIV+ cats indoors, reducing stress, feeding them a proper diet and visiting the vet twice per year (rather than once), these cats can live relatively normal, healthy lives. FIV+ cats most certainly can be in homes with other cats, but they do need to get along so there isn’t a possibility of transmission to a healthy cat through fighting. The virus cannot be transmitted to dogs or humans.
After having a heartworm positive dog (now negative), my husband and I weren’t timid about having another ‘special needs’ companion. We understood that these pets could live a happy, healthy life and deserved all of the love in the world, too. However, our kitty Anakin runs our house, and with my past not-so-great experience of Anakin living with my college roommate’s male cat, as well as the upcoming move, we weren’t sure we would be capable of maintaining a stress-free, peaceful home without potential fights between Anakin and Sprout.
Sadly, we decided it would be best for Sprout if we found him a loving home through adoption at the SPCA Albrecht Center. Our hearts ache at this decision, because we understand that cats with FIV or feline leukemia (another retrovirus) wait much longer in a shelter for a loving home since many people don’t understand what these viruses are. Heck, I didn’t really understand until Sprout’s diagnoses, but I’ve come to learn that with the right home these cats will thrive, and I hope by sharing Sprout’s story we can find someone that understands this, too, and can give him and other kitties with FIV the home they need and deserve.
My husband and I sponsored Sprout’s adoption fee, so his fee is waived in exchange for a lifetime of love. He, and other FIV+ cats, must be kept indoors and his adopter should be willing and able to seek veterinary care immediately if he seems under the weather. Sprout will do well in a home with other cats if the current cats aren’t combative (he hasn’t been reactive to cats at the shelter or our pup Ozzy, who approached him numerous times), or in a single-cat home. He loves any human that will give him food and love – he will return the favor with lots of head-bumps and purrs.
Sprout is just one of many FIV+ and feline leukemia kitties we adopt out of the SPCA Albrecht Center. Currently, Nooj is a feline leukemia cat also looking for his forever home. This is my plea to any potential adopters to please consider a ‘special needs’ companion. You will never experience more appreciation or gratitude than from a homeless animal with ‘special needs,’ that otherwise would have spent far too long in a shelter.
Our staff is dedicated to educating potential adopters about any ‘special needs’ adoptable pets. If you are interested in Sprout, or any other ‘special needs’ animal, please visit us at 199 Willow Run Road with any questions you may have.
FIV Infographic Source