Home for Life's Leukemia Cats: In loving Memory of Ollie

Today we had to put down,Ollie, one of the feline leukemia cats at Home for Life. He had developed a swollen abdomen and had stopped eating. Bloodwork revealed that his liver was compromised, probably due to a tumor and that he had become very anemic with the leukemia virus affecting his bone marrow. He was just three years old.

These photos,taken in May, reveal Ollie's playful & curious personality as he reached out to touch the photographer's camera. It is hard to believe that he was fine just 6 weeks ago. Suddenly it seemed he became very quiet, then developed a cold and a high temperature. When we could not bring down his temperature with fluids and antibiotics we took him to the veterinarian and learned that his remaining time with us would not be long. We decided to help him pass today because with the extreme swelling of his stomach from the failure of his liver, we feared that he might go into respiratory distress.There is possibly no worse death than one from suffocation, and we did not want Ollie to arrest and die a struggling,terrible death. Even knowing the inevitable outcome, it is still heartbreaking to have to decide to end a life of one of our animals.It was stunning too, as Ollie declined rapidly and had been such a happy go lucky active cat.
Most cats with feline leukemia do have a shortened lifespan but we have had at least 2 of our cats live 8 years and I know of a couple of cats who lived for 17 years though positive for the virus. The virus compromises the immune system. Most leukemia positive cats do not have long lives,especially if they are born with the disease, infected in utero from a mother cat who is positive. Nonetheless until they get sick,which can happen quite suddenly as it did with Ollie, they are healthy and active as any cat. It seems more humane to give them as much quality time as possible even if they may not have as long a life as an unaffected cat. When I think of our leukemia positive cats I remember a Mexican saying:"Life is short but it's wide".These cats do seem to pack alot of zest for living in the time they have,and especially during the summer months.They have the biggest cat run at Home for Life and the nicest garden too - a beautiful perennial garden which is also a playground for bugs,butterflies, and gophers, providing endless entertainment for the cats this time of year. I remember Ollie outside all the time this spring but if he knew staff or a visitor was in the cattery, he would dash in through the catdoor to ask for attention. I didn't want to let him go without a mention. I will miss him and will still be looking for him on the cat cubbie and tree for a while. It is hard to realize he is gone forever.