Friday, September 23, 2011

Less Adoptable: Cats with Feline Leukemia (FeLV)

This post is #14 in a series. You can read post #13 at Sebastian The Sensitive Soul's blog.
Where do I begin? With Cloudy, I think. As much as this post is about Feline Leukemia (FeLV), it's also about her. Because, truth be told, I fell in love when I saw her.

This is Cloudy.
photo courtesy Mary Montgomery
Cloudy was found in a very busy (dangerous!) part of Kansas City back in June. She was about a month and a half old at the time. Not long after she arrived at Wayside Waifs one of the foster volunteers, Mary Montgomery, saw her… and like me, it was love at first sight. 

Cloudy went home with Mary, and as the days progressed, Mary began to notice that she might be deaf – no surprise, as most blue-eyed white cats (over 70%) are deaf.  So Mary began teaching Cloudy to understand basic sign language, things like "come," "eat," and "no" (how's that last one coming along, Mary? *wink*).  If you'd like to know what it's like to adopt a deaf cat, you can read about it here.

photo courtesy Mary Montgomery
Mary was told when she took Cloudy that she had tested with a "weak positive" for feline leukemia.  But since many kittens receive these antibodies from their mother while nursing, it's hoped that a well-cared for, healthy kitten might be able to clear the virus from her body.

What is feline leukemia, and does it make a cat less adoptable? The answer to the second question is a resounding YES.  FeLV is contagious, so if you are already a cat owner, a FeLV kitty is not for you. Cats can transfer the virus to other cats through bites, mutual grooming and sometimes by sharing litter boxes or feeding dishes. But only to cats; dogs and humans can't catch FeLV.

Feline leukemia is the most common cause of cancer in cats and it can lead to severe immune deficiency, suppressing a cat's ability to fight off an infection on her own.

It's impossible to predict the life expectancy of a FeLV-infected kitty, but most don't live more than two or three years before they come down with an illness they just can't throw off.

The best thing you can do is stack the deck in their favor:  Feed them the absolute best diet you can. Avoid giving them uncooked food or unpasteurized dairy to eliminate food-borne bacterial or parasitic infections. Schedule exams at least twice a year, and make sure your vet pays special attention to gums, eyes, skin and lymph nodes. Watch her weight! Weight loss is often the first sign of illness.

photo courtesy Mary Montgomery
It's going to take a very special person to adopt Cloudy. Because, you see, she was retested. And she was unable to fight off the FeLV infection. So her time on this earth is limited. 

Mary and I can't take her because we have cats of our own and it would be criminally irresponsible to expose them to this disease. But there has to be someone out there – someone with a big heart and a lot of love to give. Someone who will do as Mary and I have, take one look at Cloudy and fall madly in love.

When Mary shared Cloudy's story with me, something she said struck home: with cats like these, it's the quality of life not the quantity that counts. Because Cloudy has FeLV, people will pass her by. And they will miss out on an incredible opportunity: to give the priceless gift of love, and understanding, and a home.

The gratification they'll experience, and the love she'll give them in return – beyond measure.

Signing off now. My heart is breaking. Oh please…someone give our precious girl a home so she can die knowing she was loved….
 If not adopt, then would you consider fostering? To give Cloudy the very best possible chance of survival, we're looking for a home with no pets at decrease the chances of Cloudy catching anything from another animal. 

(And if you can't foster or adopt, please...pass the word along! Share it on Facebook, retweet her story, email your friends!)
Update: you can now contact us at 
So if you have any questions about Cloudy or any of the other special needs kitties, or are interesting in adopting...feel free to send us an email! 

Did we mention how clever Cloudy is? Here is her latest trick:


  1. More info on Cloudy from her foster mom, Mary: "Saturday night I was sound asleep & Cloudy decided she wanted to wake me up to pay attention to her. She went over to my nightstand light & pulled down on the chain & turned on my light. I watched her with one eye open. I didn't think it was a planned action. The next night she did the same thing twice more at different times during the dead of night. When I wouldn't play with her she went over to my husband's side & turned on his light. This kitten is one smart girl!"

  2. Ohhhhh... what a special girl!! I wish we could bring her here to be with us, but even if she was close enough we have the same reason as you to not be able to have her live with us.

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  4. Cloudy was adopted by a nice young man who just two days ago was called up to go serve with the Navy overseas. He'll be gone for 18 months and is heartbroken that he now has to give Cloudy up for adoption. Can someone please help this poor girl who just can't catch a break?


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