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Making Sense of the Senseless

I think it's almost a given, that when something bad happens, we try to make sense of it. Give it a reason for being, so we can learn to accept it. Then there are times when it's just so bad, there is no sense to be made.

Yesterday afternoon, I called my Vet to see if Doodlebug was ready to be picked up. I had dropped him off that morning and he just needed some tests, a shot and a wellness exam. If you're going to do cat rescue, you must NEVER bring a cat into your home without it going to the Vet, FIRST. Considering all the creeping crud out there, you can't be too careful.

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©2011 Robin A. F. Olson. What did you find out about me?

Doodle looked great, perky, nice weight. I didn't worry that anything was wrong with him, but when it took 6 minutes of being on hold to just find out a pickup time, I knew something was up. Instead of one of the Vet techs picking up the phone, it was Dr. Larry. His voice had a serious tone. Normally we would joke around, but not this time.

He didn't mince words.

Doodlebug tested POSITIVE for Feline Leukemia.


I felt lightheaded, like I was going to faint. I tried to muster up the courage to ask him what this means. When I was a kid, two of our family's cats died from it. Dr. Larry said what I had heard from other folks who do rescue, that although it is a “strong positive,” that there is a CHANCE that in time, Doodle's immune system may kick in and he will re-test, negative. This result means he was EXPOSED to the virus, not necessarily that he HAS it. It's called, Primary Viremia. You can read more about it on Cornell's excellent resource guide for Feline Leukemia If so, there are no more concerns for this cat's future. If he re-tests positive, you have to wait and re-test again. All in all, I may have to wait for up to SIX MONTHS to really be sure one way or the other.

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©2011 Robin A. F. Olson. Doodle REALLY loves to PLAY!

But Feline Leukemia is very contagious and fatal and I have an FIV+ cat with cancer and eight other cats in my house. What am I supposed to do now?

Do I have to EUTHANIZE Doodlebug? I could barely ask the question. I had to sit down. My legs went wobbly. I was in shock. I didn't want to know the answer.

I can barely even type that word: euthanize. The thought of me KILLING a KITTEN, when my life is devoted to SAVING their lives,? It's absurd! I would NEVER do that! How could I do such a thing? But what about my own cats? Does bringing Doodle into my home, mean a DEATH SENTENCE FOR MY OWN CATS?

©2011 Robin A. F. Olson. Doodle has a black band around his belly. Ooo. I want to smoosh-face into it!

We talked about isolation. Re-testing. Doodle does NOT have to be euthanized today, but it may have to happen at some point. IF he was at a shelter, guess what, he would be dead. I get it. This is not something you want around a lot of other cats.

But I was VERY WORRIED about bringing him into my home. I wished I had a separate building to bring my fosters now, more than ever, but I was stuck. At least I HAD a room to put him in that was isolated from the rest of the house.

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©2011 Robin A. F. Olson. Stuck on You.

I had figured Doodle would be in the blue bathroom (as we call it), for a few weeks, then I'd let him meet my cats and he could run around and have a good time until he got adopted. Now I may have lost that space for fosters until 2012!

I could make SURE Doodle was locked up, change clothes after I handle him and wash my hands well after each visit, too. If I could keep my own cats away, the Feline Leukemia virus does not live for more than a few hours in the environment, so as long as there are no shared dishes, litterpans or contact, it increases the odds my cats will be all right.

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©2011 Robin A. F. Olson. Invisible cat ladder.

But what about this little 4 month old kitten?

He will be ALONE in that bathroom for a very long time.

I hung up the phone and called out to Sam. I told him the news and I could see his shoulders slump as he processed the information. He had a crush on this little kitten, too. I could see it broke his heart. We spoke about our options, about what this might mean for our own cats and for Doodlebug. I started to cry, but I was late for a meeting and I had to figure out how to not be sad, be businesslike and deal with this later. I asked Sam what we should do. We had few options. Sam said; "We don't give up on him. That's what we do. I will go get him and bring him home.”

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©2011 Robin A. F. Olson. ?

So now what I thought was going to be an easy rescue, has become much more complex. What I thought I could afford has become a challenge. The bathroom where Doodle will live is small and has a small window. I would like to buy Doodle a cat tree so he can sit up high and look out the window, as well as have a place to climb and a way to de-stress because it will have nice, tall sisal legs to scratch.

Doodle will also need more tests, a second, and possibly third ELISA (snap-test/ enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) and first and possibly second IFA (indirect immunofluorescent antibody assay). I'm going to start fundraiser for him for his medical needs and to purchase a small cat tree.

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©2011 Robin A. F. Olson. Yes, I have a zero-gravity bathroom.

I contacted Doodle's former owner and told him he must contact the person he got the kitten from and let them know the news and to get that cat tested for Feline Leukemia. I also told him that if he had Doodle around other cats, that those cats needed to be tested, too. I would have LIKED to tell him that I also would have appreciated it if he warned me that Doodle was trained to use a human's hand as a TOY and that he will haul off and bite and grab your arm or leg-a behavior I will be working to correct.

I didn't hear back from him. I'm not surprised. Doodle was on the road to becoming a very unpleasant cat to live with. You wouldn't be able to pet him without him getting excited and biting. When he weighs four pounds, it's one thing, but when he grows up, it won't be a lot of fun to have him around. I would bet money that this was the real reason they got rid of him-not that their kid was allergic, but that the kitten was growing too aggressive from how they mis-handled him.

©2011 Robin A. F. Olson. Doodle let's us all know not to take anything too seriously.

All in all, I'd have to say that my first CT cat rescue under the Kitten Associates moniker was about as bad as it could be. I have to think that in trying to make sense of this, I had to save Doodle, so I can help him be a good kitty-citizen, learn to be gentle and give him all the tools to have every chance at being healthy and living a good life.

For the record, if there is one someone's keeping out there, I will never put Doodle down.

If he IS Feline Leukemia positive, then I will search the Earth until I find someone who will adopt him.

Please help us purchase a cat tree for Doodle and be able to continue to re-test him for Feline Leukemia for the next few months! You can use the ChipIn widget below or you can also mail a check to: Kitten Associates, Inc., P.O. Box 354, Newtown, CT 06470-0354. Put “Doodle” on the check so we know where the funds should be spent. Your donation IS tax deductible. Thank you!

©2011 Robin A. F. Olson. DoodleBug: Thief of Hearts.


For what its worth, my main aim in life is to run a shelter where I take in cats with special needs. FIV, Leukemia (although I have yet to meet a Leukemia cat at the shelter I work at, perhaps in the UK it's less widespread? I'll have to do some research) blind, deaf, amputee, all the ones that have spent a long time in the shelters. If I lived in the States I'd have emailed you already to say if we could find a way, I would foster him from you if it did turn out that he was FeLV+. I know kittens can false positive on FIV for a while, so I shall cross my fingers and ask the furry horde to cross their paws that that's the case here too.

As for biting and playing, my youngest did that for a while, he seemed to grow out of (it did take a while..) being a wrestly little monkey into a purry lapcat who likes showing off his belly. He still waves his paws around a bit (but then I do go "raaaaaaaawr" and ruffle him a bit) but he seems to know not to use his claws now.

Hi Robin,

You are so wonderful to open your heart to this little cat. I don't know if this helps to hear...or to move forward, but I rescued a cat once who, after being tested, I found out had FIV. My vet said the cat could live for a very long time as THE ONLY CAT in a home. So, I found a single person (a friend), who was looking for a cat, and together they had 7 really happy years until Oscar's immune system started to shut down, and he became ill. Perhaps you will be able to find someone like my friend; someone who wants to give a life (however long that might be) to cat who, in all ways, is better off today than he was a few days ago...because of you. None of us know how long we will have with our furry in that way, Doodle is no different than any other cat. xo

Keep looking for a home for him with someone who has another FeLV+ kitty. Slim chance, but worth a try. It does happen sometimes.

We went through that a few months ago and it SUCKS!!! The good news is that one of the kittens did managed to throw the virus.

There are rescues out there that can help, but they are few and overloaded. It just sucks....there is nothing more to it.

Please know we are thinking about you and Doodle. He is a cute and special little guy. Maybe you can find a person willing to take him as an only cat or have other FELV+ cats.

As for the biting - we hope he learns quick and outgrows it.

This story broke my heart. He looks like such a good tempered kitten - it would be a crime to end his life just as it's beginning. I think the best solution is to find a person who doesn't have any other cats. Wishing you the best of luck. I'll repost your blog entry on Twitter and Facebook so people can see it. xx Heather

Such a sad and overwhelming situation. But this here --> "We don't give up on him. That's what we do" is the kind of attitude that changes the world for the better.

ARG x 20...

If you cannot find him a home, can you try to find him a rescue that has Felv cats? What about Best Friends? Maybe they have room for him..their Felv room is wonderful. Everytime I go to BF, I volunteer in the Felv kitty room. Worth a shot..

Thank you for rescuing Doodle. You are overwhelmed right now with all the info, and the possibilities and the plans for Doodle's immediate future, as well as overlapping lists of Things To Do. It seems formidable, doesn't it -- but these things will space themselves out once you get started on them (and you already have), will become a "Routine in The Works" - and will be easier to deal with.

If you look up "FELV Holistic" -- you will find some holistic possibilities / suggestions to strengthen his system. I am hoping that future tests will show better results.

Glad you are working with him as far as behavior is concerned. All will be well.

Poor little guy - he certainly got dealt a lousy hand. And poor you, Robin - it seriously seems like you can't get a break and just have some sort of "normal" rescue! Of course you are not giving up on Doodlebug - that is not your nature, and just look at that face! It would be hard for ANYONE to give up on him! I know the Marley Fund adopts out FeLV+ cats - they might be of some help to you in this situation in one way or another:

Thank you, Janiss. Sparkle's Mom is a smarty pants! I think Marley's fund will actually help ME make more sense of what to do for Doodles and when. I may get him re-tested with a different test in a day or two, once I have time to mentally sort out all this stuff. Right now he's eating well and playing hard. I bought him some new toys so he won't bite my hands (yeah, right) I think once armed with good info, I can do more for Doodles. Thank you again!

Shadow Cats in Texas & Blind Cat Rescue in SC take FIV/FELV cats, but I don't know if they have any room. You can find them online or on Facebook. I googled felv cat rescue & got these results: Of course, if any are near you, I'd recommend visiting first, if you decide to place him with one of them instead of finding him an only cat home.

You are correct that the virus does not survive long outside the body. Generally, if kittens are born with the disease (because mom was positive) then the kittens don't survive much past 8 weeks. If he proves to be positive, then he was exposed in his former home. I'm assuming from your post that they didn't indicate whether or not they had other cats or if he was indoor/outdoor. Bear in mind that Dr. Julie Levy, at Operation Catnip, has done extensive study and found that outdoor cats are no more likely to be positive for either disease than are indoor cats.

He has to be one of the cutest kittens I've ever seen and I've seen quite a few. I can only hope that the test was a false positive. It happens and it happens more often in kittens than in adult cats. HOPE!

The action photos of Doodlebug jumping and playing are wonderful! What type of camera do you use?
- Renee

I think what makes the big difference is using a LightScoop on my flash. I get much better lighting and color saturation and no more red eye on the cats! The LS costs about $30. Ideally, I'd use a nikon speedlight but they are like $450+ Hope that helps!

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