Illness Stigmatizes Kitties

Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) doesn’t spread to dogs or humans, yet Sheriff, a stout, short-haired orange tabby with the disease, is waiting at West Coast Dog and Cat Rescue (WCDC) for a home, most likely because people fear he is contagious. This Valentine’s Day weekend WCDC hopes that will change.

Sheriff and 11 other cats at WCDC and Lane County Animal Services have FIV but are expected to live long and healthy lives. Although the ailment weakens the immune system of infected felines, they are not at risk unless they are exposed to diseases their body can’t handle. The simple solution is to keep cats like Sheriff indoors.

“If they’re outside they’re more susceptible,” says Julie McDonnell, executive director at WCDC. “It’s preventative maintenance more than anything else,” she adds, regarding keeping FIV cats healthy.

The common misunderstanding about FIV is how it can be transferred. It is unusual for the disease to spread between cats through the casual interaction of sharing food bowls, litter boxes or toys. The potential for FIV to spread is through a deep bite to the skin resulting in saliva-to-blood contact or a mother cat can give it to her kittens

But this does not mean FIV cats shouldn’t live with disease-free cats, McDonnell says. Most cats like Sheriff get along with others within the same household and concern over the disease spreading is often inflated, she says.

There are vaccinations to prevent FIV in cats, and some veterinarians recommend it for outdoor cars, but it is controversial, according to McDonnell.

Sheriff is a special story of triumph for WCDC. He was transferred from Lane County Animal Shelter (LCAS) five months ago with a severe wound on his neck after being rescued off the street. He has been successfully nursed back to health despite having FIV, which makes it harder to recover.

He and others will be apart of WCDC and LCAS adoption event called “A 2nd Chance at Love,” starting Friday Feb. 10. The Valentine’s Day event will be held at the PetSmart off Coburg Road until Sunday, Feb. 12.