Fieldhaven looking for foster homes for some special cats

By: Stephanie Dumm News Messenger Reporter
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Fieldhaven Feline Rescue is looking for foster homes for some cats that may need a little extra care and love. These cats have either the Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) or Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and shouldn’t be around other cats. Fieldhaven places the FeLV and FIV positive cats in homes with no cats to keep the diseases from spreading to other cats, according to Joy Smith, founder of the nonprofit cat shelter. “We ask for them to be a sanctuary foster,” Smith said. “What we do is help with medical care. We love it when fosters can help but we don’t want fostering to be contingent on paying for care.” Smith said the infected cats make it difficult for Fieldhaven Feline Rescue “because they hold up spaces for healthy, adoptable cats that may be euthanized” while waiting for a place at the feline rescue in another animal shelter. “The FIV cats are taking up space that we could keep six cats in,” said Jen Paul, shelter manager for Fieldhaven. She said Fieldhaven can only hold 25 cats due to county regulations and also because of complications caused by over-crowding. “To crowd cats induces stress and disease for cats,” Paul explained, adding that the shelter is currently at maximum capacity. FeLV and FIV cannot be passed from cat to human or dog so these cats can be placed in homes with dogs, according to Smith. Fieldhaven tests all cats that come into the shelter for both viruses, which Smith said is a “shelter medical protocol.” She said FIV is spread in cats by mating or bite wounds and is common in male cats. The immune system of a cat with FIV is “not as optimal and need to be treated if sick.” “What’s been found is FIV cats are rarely asymptomatic and rarely get ill from disease,” Smith said. “We watch their health closely but very rarely do they get ill. They lead a healthy life.” Cats with the feline immunodeficiency virus “can have a normal lifespan,” said Paul. Smith said that Fieldhaven asks residents to adopt the FIV positive cats, rather than foster them, “because they are healthy.” Fieldhaven currently has three FIV positive cats, Sunny, Grayson and Pirate, who need homes. Pirate earned his name because one of his legs is three quarters the length it should be, which Smith said resembles the peg leg on a pirate. FeLV is different from FIV because cats are more likely to become ill and die at a younger age. The virus is spread through blood, saliva and other bodily fluids. Smith said cats with the feline leukemia virus exhibit flu-like symptoms. “Their immune system is shot (and they are) susceptible to anything,” she said. Fostering a cat with FeLV is not something that should be entered into lightly. “Their role is to provide care and quality of life, but be strong when the time comes for the cat to be euthanized,” Smith said. Paul said the FeLV cats have made her stronger and has left her more able to deal with death. “They are just as enjoyable as healthy cats,” Paul said. “They can live a healthy life for quite awhile until they succumb.” Fieldhaven currently has two FeLV cats, Milo and Dae, in foster homes. Dae has been renamed Bella by her foster owner, Lori Kelly, who is also a Fieldhaven volunteer. Kelly said she’ll “be devastated when Bella eventually succumbs to the virus but will know her days were filled with lots of love.” “I know she won’t be around for a long time but she needs love,” Kelly said. “ I suppose some people would say she’s sick but you’d never know.” For more information, call Fieldhaven at 434-6022.