If you’re a reader of my blog, you’ll immediately see that this post isn’t the sort that I usually make, as it’s not related to technology or education in any way. However, I wanted to share this story because it may save another cat’s life down the road.
This is Rustopher. He’s a 2 years, 9 months old grey tabby cat. He’s a big boy too- 17lbs in fact. He shares his home with 2 other female cats, both older than he. He’s very playful and cuddly when he wants to be, and he loves his food. If I’m not careful, he’ll sneak off and eat the other cats’ food as well at meal times. His favorite toys are the wands with the long strings attached. He’ll often drag them around the apartment. I’ll wake up and find them upstairs, or by the front door. They get moved about often.
Rustopher would not be alive today had it not been for my parents following a gut hunch. He would have been put to sleep at the age of 2 months, and that would have been that. He would not have had a forever home, or brought joy into my life the way he has. And all because of that first FIV+ diagnosis. This is his story.
I adopted Rustopher the day my one little brother got married- June 7, 2014. My sister and her fiance had found Rustopher and his brother abandoned, and taken them in. They kept begging me to take one of the kittens, even though I already had two cats of my own. The other cat they had posted online with a simple rehoming fee of $10. I didn’t plan on adopting him that day, but he stole my heart. I named him Rustopher, a combination of the names Ruskin and Christopher.
All was well, or so I thought. I was away on vacation two weeks later, taking in some sun in Ocean City, MD with a friend. I got a call from my parents saying that the person who had adopted Rustopher’s sibling had called my sister. The man had taken that kitten to the vet, and the kitten had tested positive for FIV. FIV, or Feline Immunodeficiency Virus is a slow acting virus that weakens the immune system over time. Cats need extra care and a stress free environment. The disease may take years to compromise the immune system completely, and research has shown that cats may pass from other diseases or old age before that happens. It often gets compared to HIV because of some of the similarities, but FIV is something only cats get.
Unfortunately, Rustopher also tested positive for FIV. Since I was away, my parents took him to the local vet that we had been using for our other animals. The test was administered, and in no time at all the vet went from very nice, to talking down to my parents. Because Rustopher had tested positive, he wanted Rustopher put down immediately. Mom and dad had decided to wait until I got back before a decision was made. The vet did not like this, but mom said something in her gut didn’t feel right about the whole situation.
We did some research and it turns out the older research advocated for putting a cat down once it tested positive for FIV. It also believed that the disease was easily transmitted from food and water dishes. Newer research did not support those ideas. Research also stated that a mother cat could be FIV+ and the antibodies could be passed to a kitten via milk. The kitten may never have FIV, but they will test positive because of this for about 6 months or so. I decided to find a new vet that would treat Rustopher, as well as my other cats because I hadn’t been impressed with the way the vet had treated my parents.
Lavale Veterinary Hospital came through. They had no issues with treating an FIV+ cat, and would take precautions to make sure he received the best treatment. At his first appointment, Rustopher was tested again just to be sure before it was officially entered into his files. Kitty boy certainly won over the hearts of the vets and vet techs though with his size and cuddliness. I was made aware of the potential for the other cats to contract FIV from him, which was very low overall.
I was certainly sad when I had to move away this past summer because I would no longer be able to use their services. I had to put off Rustopher’s annual checkup a little bit because all 3 cats end up due about the same time and I can’t pay for them all at once. He had his first visit with the new vet earlier this month. I wanted to have him tested again, since he had been tested at a little over 2 months of age, and FIV+ results can appear in kittens up to 6 months of age, even if they do not actually have it. This comes from the mother’s milk issue mentioned earlier.
I waited as the test was administered and then watched the tester on the table as we waited for it to return the results. It didn’t matter to me if he tested positive or not to me because I loved my boy no matter what. I wanted to make sure though that he was indeed positive because of all the precautions that were taken with him at the vet if he were ill or needed medication.
The results came back negative. Rustopher did not have FIV. He was the kitten who only tested positive because of mother’s milk. Part of me was angry because of the first vet. Had we listened to him, Rustopher would have been killed needlessly. Current research matters when it comes to FIV. If your vet wants to put your kitten down because of positive results, find a new vet immediately. There are vets who will treat cats with FIV. Make sure you have them tested after a year of age to be certain they do indeed have the disease. No matter what, love your furbaby and know that they are still their lovable selves, FIV or no FIV.