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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

New Orleans: Feline Leukemia

Although the feline rescue rules about quarantine nagged at me, I ignored them. I had never rescued two different groups of cats at the same time before and I was being swept away by the behavioral possibilities.

Evangeline (as the hotel manager named her) was so charming and the kittens needed a mother. Judging by her nipples, she had the kind of experience that might qualify her for the job of foster mother.

The ideal kittenhood includes a loving mother who is well-socialized to people, siblings with whom to develop peer-to-peer relationships and important social skills, as well as loads of affection from humans. A mother helps bring these things together because cats are excellent observational learners, watching their mother receive affection from humans, as well as all of her social cues, actions and reactions strongly informs the development of the kitten’s personality.

Many singleton, handraised kittens never learn appropriate feline social etiquette and have difficulty getting along with other cats for the rest of their lives. They can even be jumpy and awkward with people.

Evangeline snuggled the kittens and helped them settle. Without her, they scattered and toddled about aimlessly. But her presence was magnetic. They piled around her and she would rub their tummies with her paws, rolling on her side as though inviting them to nurse. None of them did, but they pushed into her warm fur and fell asleep.

If she began grooming them, I would know that she had fully accepted her role as foster mother.

Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday night, we all slept together. What a wonderful experiment this would be!

At ARNO, the cats are quarantined for three weeks before being introduced to any other cats. As a precaution.

I have no expertise in disease management and am an amateur rescuer at best, though filled with good intentions.

On Monday, Robin (the shelter director of ARNO) took Evangeline to the vet for spaying, vaccinations and testing. That afternoon, Robin called me, “Evangeline is feline leukemia positive.”

“No. Oh no—no!”

Feline Leukemia, which is a highly contagious virus, is a death sentence for a cat.

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