In recent years, illnesses such as feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) have come to the forefront of the community cat discussion.
What was before a death sentence is now more so an open discussion about cat illnesses and what they can still do even after being infected.
FIV has come out to be a disease in which the cat can still thrive with additional medical oversight and the threat of it being passed to other cats in the household has become a non-issue.
FeLV is still a discussion in which you may find yourself hearing the word “euthanasia” after your community cat becomes diagnosed with the disease. While it is easier to transmit FeLV from cat to cat due to the disease being passed through saliva and not just bite wounds, is it fair to cut a cat’s life short if there is a way you could potentially help long-term?
While FeLV cats most times do succumb to the illness, if you are able to give them a home and a life, should they be put down just because they have the disease? Probably not.
Like any disease, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, FIV and even FeLV, there are ways in which you can help give a cat a great life. Although FeLV is transmittable through saliva, that does not mean you cannot try and make your community kitty an indoor-only cat–to prolong their life and keep other cats safe from the disease.
A New Jersey cat rescuer gives her own take on FeLV and why it is not a death sentence:
“My cat was once a community cat I fed outside. I started to see her become weaker and through TNR efforts, was able to get her trapped and neutered. For those who aren’t aware, the N part of TNR also includes shots and routine vet care, so when the tests came back stating my girl had FeLV, they stated she should be euthanized. Well, she was weaker, but not on death’s door so I took her back and kept her in my downstairs bathroom until I could come up with a plan. I decided to keep her inside and transition her from outside life to inside life. It was an effort to do so and she was initially not into the idea, but over time she calmed down.
Keeping a cat calm after a FeLV diagnosis is key because stress makes symptoms arise quicker and can be detrimental to their health. Cats, unfortunately, do succumb to the disease, but the main point of my story is that her life did not end right at the vet’s and with a little brainstorming and quick thinking I was able to give her four more great years of love and life.”
Taking a cat in may not always be a viable option, but it is a great way to give life back to cats that have ultimately in the past been given a death sentence immediately after test results are received. Also, retesting after three months should be done as initial tests can sometimes yield a false positive result for FeLV.
For those who do not know, there is a vaccine available to protect against FeLV that you can give your cat. Although there are risks such as potential cancer development at the injection site, and the cost is high, it is a safeguard if you are willing to take the precaution of vaccinating your cat.
Project MEOW advocates that all cats be given a chance at life, including our fellow FeLV kitties. Please consider a donation to FeLV research at Cornell University or WINN Feline Foundation to help continue to find a cure and also give FeLV kitties a chance at life with the disease.
Project MEOW is always looking for fosters to take in our cats, please follow the link if interested in fostering a new feline friend.