One of the hardest parts of working in an animal shelter was watching FIV+ cats like Greylock get passed up for a chance at adoption. It was heartbreaking to know that these cats were being denied a forever home simply because of misconceptions about their condition. The fact is, FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) is not a death sentence. FIV+ cats can live long, happy, happy lives, and can even safely live with non-infected cats as long as neither cat is aggressive (since FIV is primarily spread through deep bites or scratches). Most importantly, FIV+ cats are just regular cats. They like to sleep and cuddle. They like to perch and play and be mischievous. They get very excited and chatty at dinner time. And they desperately want a home and family of their own.
In February, a very special little girl named Arden was preparing for her 6th birthday party. She had always loved cats, but her family was hesitant to get one because her brother, Andrew, has allergy induced asthma. As Arden’s mom, Colleen, puts it “He’s allergic to so many things in the environment that we figured the chances of him being allergic to cats is probably pretty high.”
Instead of pressing for a cat that may cause problems for her brother, Arden dreamed up another way to show her love for cats: she asked her friends and family to bring donations for the kitties at Whiskers to her birthday party instead of presents for her. Her loved ones heeded her sweet request and Arden was able to make a large donation of food, litter, beds, toys, and tunnels.
A long time volunteer, Joanne, gave Arden and her mom a tour when they delivered the donated items. “We stopped in the FIV room the longest,” Colleen remembers. “Arden stopped and pet Greylock for quite a long time. He was the nicest cat. As soon as she touched him he started purring. We were in there with him for a while.”
According to her mom, after that, everything Arden did was centered around cats. “One day in March, shortly after her birthday, she came home with a project from kindergarten. They had to draw pictures and write simple sentences next to them. The assignment was ‘How to persuade someone’. Her paper said ‘I want a cat’. It was the sweetest thing. It had a bunch of pictures of cats and said things like:
Cats are sweet.
Cats are cute.
I will take care of it.
I will make sure to shut the door so it doesn’t get out.
I will love it.”
Colleen figured that her son’s Allergist would test him for a cat allergy, but he suggested that it would be easier to just bring Andrew around cats instead. To test the waters, Colleen brought him on his own tour of Whiskers, where he was also particularly enthralled with the FIV+ cats. When they got home she shared the news with Arden. “Guess what!”, she said, “Andrew had no reaction! He’s not allergic!”
“It was the best day ever for her.”
They took one more trip to Whiskers, as a family, to choose a cat. It didn’t take much for Arden to convince them all that Greylock was definitely the cat for them. Arden’s family never had any hesitations about adopting a cat with FIV. In fact, Colleen says she knew from the beginning that she wanted one from the FIV room. “They just seemed so calm and gentle,” she recalls, “We specifically wanted a cat who would be patient and calm and cuddly.” Andrew is four and a half years old, and though he is old enough to understand the right way to handle a cat, Colleen wanted to be sure to adopt a cat who wouldn’t be aggressive or mistake his playfulness for an attack.
When I asked Colleen whether she had any qualms about adopting a cat with FIV, she said it never scared her. “At first I didn’t know what it was,” she admitted. “But I looked it up. To me, there’s no harm. I don’t know why anybody wouldn’t want to adopt a cat with FIV unless they have another cat who is aggressive, which we don’t.”
“He’s just like a regular cat. You’d never know he has FIV except for his bloodwork.”
Greylock has been in his new home since the middle of August and has already established himself as an important figure. “He’s great and already such a huge part of our family,” Colleen says. “We can’t imagine ever not having him. We’re so happy with him. We just adore him.”
Featured Photo Copyright: Cindy Thibault @fromwagstowhiskersinc