Preview of Coming Attractions

Over the next several months, I will be traveling across the country in search of cat stories, visiting innovative cat rescues and shelters, interviewing eccentric cat lovers, leading vets and behaviorists and so much more. To view my travel schedule and learn more about my Cat Behaviorist business, please visit http://www.thecatbehaviorist.com/ . If I will be in your area and you feel you have some interesting cat stories to share, please don't hesistate to contact me via my website.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

New Orleans: Angels


I felt terrible leaving Evangeline at ARNO for the night. Set up in a clean cage, the way she watched me spoke of yet another abandonment. Why are you leaving me here? She implored. “Evangeline, I love you and I promise you that I will take care of you.” I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I knew that I needed to keep her separated from the kittens and ‘Chance’. I stroked her fur and cried. This pretty, loving manx should have been easy to place, but the disease that has invaded her body is a scarlet letter that warns off adoption. What would I do with her? The weight of this responsibility was overwhelming.

Because of her feline leukemia positive status, I couldn’t mix her with my cats at home, I just couldn’t expose them to that level of risk, especially my beloved Henry with his FIV positive status. ARNO doesn’t euthanize feline leukemia cats and the thought of extinguishing this little life was too painful to bare.

On Tuesday morning, I called Jodi, a woman in Nashville who provides a home for cats with Feline Leukemia. But she didn’t have room for Evangeline. “I never planned to be a leukemia rescue. But several years ago, I was working with the Purr Factory rescue group. I had about 30 cats here, when I brought home a pregnant female. She gave birth almost immediately, so I hadn’t had a chance to do anything. Turned out she had feline leukemia, and of course, so did her kittens. By the time I found out, it was too late. The disease swept through the population. You can’t imagine the guilt I felt as one cat after another died in my arms. Those months were like living in hell. I loved those cats and my carelessness was responsible for losing them. In the end, I decided to do leukemia rescue. I needed something good to come from all of that loss. I had learned so much about the disease and I wanted to do something—something good to make up for my mistake.”

10 of the original 30 cats in her population had died from Leukemia. Jodi’s number’s reflect the statistics given to me by Dr. Norris, the ARNO vet. “Of the cats that test positive for Feline Leukemia, I see about 1/3 that die within a year or so from secondary infections, 1/3 are carriers without symptoms, and 1/3 end up reverting to negative—their bodies beat the virus.” He uses several remedies, including one called Staph Protein A to help with the reversal.

Jodi’s current leukemia cats seem to live at least 4 years. “I use a lot of holistic remedies, immune boosters etc. All of my leukemia kitties are so loving and friendly. I love them.”

After my phone call with Jodi, I went to the dining room at the hotel. A young law student was sitting with her friend eating breakfast. “How’s Evangeline doing?” She asked.

“She has feline leukemia.” I went on to explain what that meant. She was so sad and so sincere in her concern. Over the weekend, I had walked around the hotel with Evangeline in my arms, every one was amazed at how relaxed and friendly she was. The young law student had told me that she lives in New York and had left her beloved kitty behind with her parents. She was having cat withdrawal and loved snuggling Evangeline.

Suddenly an idea! “Kathy,” I asked, “You are flying to New York today, aren’t you?”

“Yeah.”

“Would you be willing to transport Evangeline to a sanctuary on Long Island for Feline Leukemia cats?”

She reflected for a moment. “Yeah, I could do that. I’d have to keep her with me until the weekend, but that’s doable—if that’s okay.”

Immediately I called Robin at ARNO, she called Susan from Angel’s Gate Sanctuary in Long Island (www.angelsgate.org ) The answer was yes! If we could get Evangeline to the sanctuary, they would accept her. I called Continental airlines to book Evangeline’s passage as Kathy Hwang’s underseat companion. Then I dashed to ARNO to collect Evangeline and have the vet complete her Health Certificate for the flight (that is when I met the fabulous Dr. Norris—a Robert De Niro look alike when he smiles.)

By 12:45 Evangeline, Kathy and I reunited at the airport. I stayed with them to make sure everything was going smoothly. “Evangeline is a really great cat. After a few days together… what if I wanted to keep her?”

“Just let me know, I’ll work it out with Angel’s Gate. I think you two would make a terrific pair and you clearly love cats.” We had already thoroughly explored the complexities of caring for a Feline Leukemia cat. “Either way, I’m coming to New York in June, I can either visit her at your place, or if you like we can visit her together at Angel’s Gate.”

How quickly it all happened! By 1:15, I was driving away, missing sweet Evangeline already. Before I left, I whispered to her, “You be sure to charm Kathy, okay?” I hope that those two will stay together. But either way, Evangeline’s future looks bright. The Angel’s gate sanctuary is a cage free, loving sanctuary set up to care for special needs animals.

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