Cat Rescue - Second Chances

FIV-positive cats make great pets.

By Polina Olsen

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Felix found a loving owner in Judy Cooper.
Felix at CAT before his adoption.
More than a year had passed since Judy Cooper's cat died, and she was ready to adopt. Still, after hours of searching at the Cat Adoption Team (CAT) in Sherwood, Ore., she couldn't quite find the right cat.

"I went into different rooms, sat and looked around," Cooper recalls. "But, the cats weren't speaking to me. When I got into the FIV room, this little guy came up, and somehow I was touched."

Black fur, tattered ears and FIV-positive, Felix was the longest-staying cat at the shelter. He loved being petted, and Cooper remembers his soulful look. The next day, she visited CAT and burst into tears when she saw him. The adoption specialist explained that FIV-positive cats make wonderful pets, and Cooper took Felix home.

CAT, a no-kill animal shelter finds homes for thousands of cats each year, including those infected with feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). Medical director Wendi Rekers, DVM, knows that fighting misconceptions helps potential adopters make good choices.

"FIV and HIV are different viruses," she says. Only cats get FIV, and it's primarily spread through blood and saliva. "You won’t transfer it by petting one cat and then another."

Rekers encourages FIV-positive adoptions. To prevent spreading the infection, she advocates keeping FIV-positive cats indoors and not mixing them with cats that don't have the disease.

"Many [of these cats] stay healthy for years, make happy, active pets and end up dying of unrelated causes. Most don't require special medical care other than frequent checkups," she says.

Chris and Elaine Owcarz fell in love with Chester, who lived in the FIV room.
The FIV room at CAT.
Carrie Fagerstrom, a CAT foster parent, agrees. She was thrilled to learn of Felix's adoption. "He's the cutest thing, the way he walks up to you and tilts his head." Fagerstrom particularly remembers his battered ears. "It always blows me away with these cats. You know what a rough life they’ve had."

Fagerstrom also remembers another favorite — a tabby with a deformed leg named Buzz. He ended up at CAT after an emergency clinic removed a shotgun pellet from his leg. More than a year later, Buzz needed a break from shelter life. Fagerstrom brought him to the FIV room in her home.

Meanwhile Chris and Elaine Owcarz regularly visited CAT looking for the perfect pet.

"We kept going to the FIV room," says Chris Owcarz. "The cats always seemed more calm and friendly."

They settled on an orange, FIV-positive beauty named Chester. Wanting a friend for Chester, they remembered the sweet tabby with the deformed leg, who was temporarily in Fagerstrom’s foster care.

Today, Buzz and Chester are the best of friends.

"We love these guys. They’re our boys," Owcarz says. "They chase each other around the house. It's amazing how healthy they are."

The couple advocates adopting FIV-positive cats.

"I was worried about medical bills, but it hasn't been worse than other cats," Owcarz says. "Give them a chance. It's amazing the love these guys give."

Polina Olsen is a freelance writer living in Portland, Ore., with her husband Andy, Somali Koshka and Tonkinese Baba Ganoush.

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Reader Comments

Curtis    Harrisburg, PA

4/18/2014 10:33:23 AM

I recently found a stray cat approximately 1 yr old. She is a beautiful, good cat that just craves attention and love. Her temporary name is Zoe. We took her to the vets only to find out she has FIV. We are currently giving her medicine and the vet stated that with treatment, she could live a happy, healthy life. Unfortunately we have another cat that is not infected and therefore we cannot keep Zoe. So I am desperately trying to find a home for this good little girl. She is such a good cat and companion and dealing with this awful hand she was dealt. PLEASE if anyone is interested in saving this awesome cat, please contact me at 717-315-8450. She deserves to find a nice home and caring people. I do not want to euthanize her. PLEASE HELP ZOE!!!!! She needs your help.

Carol    Philadelphia, PA

3/26/2014 4:46:54 PM

We have a 4 year old tortie with fiv that we cannot keep. She is fixed, up to date with all shots and currently being bored. "Princess" is shy but trying to be friendly.
Please call 215 620 6250

Toni    Weth., CT

9/5/2013 4:25:23 PM

STAR - 5 yr. old, ex-stray, scared, with FIV. He got spayed today, all shots, etc. He is black (DSH) with white spot on chest and tummy. Needs a forever home. Thank you. Toni (Conn.) 860-529-3072

Bowen    Tyler, TX

7/24/2012 10:04:07 AM

I have an fiv cat in Tyler,Tx. If anyone would like to adopt her I can't keep her. she is very clean and loving. Sweet Adeline is her name and she is sweet and playful. call me 903-504-0920 or

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