A cat named Raven
In the mind of kittens, the world is a constant source of excitement forever being full of new and amusing things. Anything that moves should be chased after and pounced on as hunting skills are developed. “I have slain the fuzzy catnip octopus! I am the mighty hunter!” our kitten Raven seems to say. Moving toes are fair game and anything that can be climbed should be. Plants are a natural source of entertainment and are a nice place to rest one’s bottom. Although the humans sure get upset when you knock them over.
Raven being an indoor only cat has a smaller choice of prime hunting. Lately his victims have been the Lego people that my son keeps in his room. One day he took out a large number of the clones in his star wars battle and just the other day I want down to feed the cats to find that the conductor of the Lego holiday train had been slain, carried down two flights of stairs and left by the food dish.
It has been almost nine years since I have had a baby animal in the house and the joy that this little guy gives me is immeasurable. In the evenings he goes crazy running around the living room, scaling the scratching post in one leap and trying his best to get the other old fogy animals to join in. He has a habit of jumping onto your shoulder in a single leap that can be quite shocking and also make it very hard to get any work done. Of course to him loving him is my most important work.
After my sixteen-year-old cat Ziggy passed away, I realized that all my animals were aging fast and I really wanted some young energy in the house. I however had to find a cat who would fit in with three other old cats, two old dogs, and an eleven-year-old son who often has other kids over. We slowly began looking for a kitten or young cat and I hoped that we would be able to recognize the right one.
A few months into our search we made a trip over to the Seattle Humane Society and spent some time looking at young cats. I had worked at the Humane Society at the beginning of my career and was happy to run into one of the volunteers I had known who was working in adoption that day. After looking in the cat rooms we made our way over to the kittens, which were in smaller cages in the lobby area. There was one kitten who another couple was looking at, and he grabbed our attention. He was batting through the cage bars and climbing up the sides of the cage trying to get attention and he was all alone. The other cages all had multiple kittens yet he did not have the benefit of having others to snuggle or play with. He was the most beautiful kitten with solid black fur, big amber eyes, and a white spot on the very tip of his tail. On his cage was a sign which read, this kitten is testing FIV positive and cannot go to a home with other cats. Because he was a little under six months there was still a slight possibility that he would convert back to being FIV negative.
The other couple decided that they could not adopt him because they had other cats in their house but we were still very interested. Part of me thought, this is a crazy idea taking on another cat who may have health problems, but I knew this was the one who would fit into our home. When I picked him up he climbed up my shoulder and purred and clung to it for dear life. When we put him back in the cage to fill out the paperwork to adopt him he went crazy batted and calling out and saying “Please, please take me home, don’t leave me here.” The poor little guy had been found as a stray two months ago wandering the streets and he was ready to finally have a home. Because I was a vet and I knew the risk of him passing FIV to my other cats they let me adopt him even though I had other cats in the house.
While my intention was to keep him in the bathroom separated from our other cats for the first week, within 24 hours he had full run of the house. Not only was he fearless but he also liked our other animals and they liked him. Our dog Mel would follow him around, fascinated by his every move, and our oldest cat Basil would take him under his arm and groom him. Our most playful and youngest cat Melody spent the whole first day playing with him and was so worn out by the end that she had to spend the whole next day in bed resting. We even had to bring her food because she wouldn’t leave to eat.
We are so happy and blessed to have Raven in our lives and he makes each day better with his excitement over life and his love of sitting on shoulders and purring loudly. I know that because of his FIV positive status that he will most likely have more health issues than another cat but like most FIV positive cats he will probably live a normal length life.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus positive cats are more prone to dental problems, are more likely to get infections, and have a higher risk of cancer than normal cats. Traditionally most shelters have euthanized all FIV positive cats but now some shelters are trying to adopt them out. FIV is transmitted much like HIV although the most common transmission is from deep puncture wounds in fighting. Because of this it is most common in unaltered male cats. It can also be passed from sexual intercourse and from mother to kitten. Kittens born to a FIV positive mother will test positive for FIV for up to six months even if they are negative because the test is for antibody against the virus and not the virus itself. Because of this it is very hard to adopt kittens from FIV positive mothers.
Additionally there is a new vaccine for FIV and a huge controversy that surrounds it in the veterinary community, mostly against the vaccine. There is no way to distinguish a FIV vaccinated cat from a FIV positive cat with our current testing. A vaccinated cat and her kittens will test positive for FIV. Most shelters still euthanize for FIV so if a vaccinated cat comes in she/he will be killed. In addition most veterinarians feel that the vaccine is not highly effective, and since the disease is not highly contagious, it is not advisable to give it. If veterinarians do give the vaccine a cat should be microchipped so that they will not be euthanized if they end up at animal control. There is a slight possibility that Raven is from a vaccinated mother and is not truly positive but there is no way for us to know this.
Raven has become an ambassador for FIV positive cats among by family and friends who have also fallen in love with him. If you are considering adopting a cat please consider helping one with FIV. The Seattle Humane Society has a whole room of adult FIV positive cats and often kittens, as do many other rescue groups.
Here is a link to The Seattle Humane Society.