Our Amy - the Unadoptable Cat!
One day whilst working at a cat clinic in Taiwan, I received a call from Ms. S. She told me her cat was crazy and needed to be hospitalized. This was a first for me and so I began to prepare for a ferocious cat to walk through my doors. I was nervous because in my time as a feline veterinarian I had never dealt with a mad ‘flying cat’ before!
Thankfully, Amy couldn’t and did not fly. Instead I opened the carrier and there sitting was a tiny calico female, watching me with her great big eyes. She let out the most unexpected little meow and with it my heart melted.
Despite Ms. S caring for Amy the best she could, Amy was homeless and weighed in at a tiny 1.4 kilograms. She was no older than one years old and had been through the wars, with a gaping wound on her back leg. Ms. S paid for all of Amy's veterinary care and for Amy to stay in the cat clinic hospital ward until a new home was found.
That's when we did some tests and Amy was diagnosed with FeLV and FIV. Finding someone to adopt Amy was going to be difficult and I had never known of any fosterer who would take on a cat with FeLV.
For anyone who doesn’t know, FeLV is a rare feline cautious disease, caused by a kind of retrovirus. Feline Leukaemia virus like the antigens of FIV can hid in the immune cells with latent forms, suppressing the immune system. Cats who have FeLV will often suffer from painful stomatitis like ulcers and gingivitis. The worse difference between FIV and FeLV, is FeLV not only spreads via fighting and blood transfusion, but also via saliva by using the same food bowl. Another difference from FIV is that FeLV can be prevented by vaccines. However, the infected cats whether FIV or FeLV, are not recommended to take vaccinations as their immunodeficient.
Finding a New Home
My brother loves cats and for his first cat I thought Amy could be perfect, adult cats and much easier than kittens for beginners. As for her FeLV and FIV I thought, 'my brother is a doctor he can care for Amy really well and he will understand that Amy can have these diseases but still live a healthy and happy life.'
Sadly, when my brother first came to see her, he left discouraged in his abilities to care for her properly. He asked me so many questions about the diseases that I knew he would need time to think. He kept texting me asking questions like “Would it be okay if I don’t let her go outside?”, “Should I prepare a cage?”, “Would she scratch the sofa?” but it didn't take long for the walls around my brothers’ heart to slowly breakdown and he said,
“If nobody adopts her, I will.”
Against all the odds we had a home for Amy!
I phoned Ms. S to tell her the good news and two days later she came into pay all of Amy’s fees.
We took Amy back home before the transitional Chinese New Year and what a New Year it was going to be.
New Year New Hope
We kept Amy in a pet cage during her first week to aid in her adjusting to her new home. Although my brother is a doctor, he listened to me like a humble student. He cared for Amy so well and when he goes to work, my Mum comes over to check in on her and give her some lunch.
She had a wonderful temperament, whenever we approached, she would run up to us. Whenever we patted her, she would bow down her head and close her eyes (a sign of comfort and trust). She was so friendly and adorable, truly making the most of having a roof over her head and a family to love.
Amy became a part of our family and every day began to feel interesting. I even became a bit creative and made many pretty collars for Amy. My Mum took some courses and would show us what she learned like cat massage and Bach Flower Essence with our best model (she loved all the attention). My Dad often asked us “Should we take a look at Amy?”, he definitely missed the cat more than his Son.
Amy had the biggest life changing impact on my brother. In the past, my brother was introverted. After Amy came, he became warmer and less closed off. He was delighted when we talked about the cat. Pet store shopping became the routine. He would talk to us about what Amy liked and didn’t like. He would often complain that Amy would eat more luxurious than him, but it didn’t stop him buying all the expensive cans of cat food! Everything became about Amy. She changed his life and she became his whole world.
Amy even helped my brother to get his first girlfriend. Owing to his personality, he kept single for thirty years. Amy came into his house and a few months after, my brother told me that he wanted to introduce someone to us. We were very surprised.
Such a pretty girl, 8-years younger with a cat of her own and two rabbits. Meowmeow her cat was a one-year old calico aswell! Now, my brother and her girlfriend live together with Amy, Meowmeow and two rabbits Peter and Millar. They are a perfectly happy family.
We are so happy and excited for them especially my Mum. She said, “Thanks to your job, we were given this opportunity to adopt Amy. Thanks to Amy your brother has found purpose and happiness in his life.”
In a way I think she is right and despite Amy seeming like the unadoptable cat to others she was a life changing miracle to us.
Amy and Meowmeow were very fortunate to be able to live together. They are the same gender, size and age, sufficient resources and space were available, lower the risk of fighting. They also feed separately and went through complete familiarization training. Meowmeow also receives a FeLV vaccine, meaning risk of contagion lowers.
I would advice anyone to consult a veterinarian before taking on a FeLV or FIV cat with other cats in the household. It is not impossible but you need patience and understanding to make it work.
Written by: Tzu-Yun Lin, Feline Veterinarian, Human-Animal Interaction, Postgraduate University of Stirling
Edited by: Kirsty Moran, Founder & Director, New Leaf Animal Society