Recently, I visited the local kennel to check-out its boarding facilities. As I walked by one of the cages, I noticed that the cat inside was rubbing his head against the wire mesh door and purring. I reached into the cage and began petting him. Instantly, love and affection oozed from this cat (so much for the myth of the aloofness of felines). I noticed that there was a tag on his cage. It indicated that the cat’s name was Patches. It also indicated that he was up for adoption.
Puzzled that Patches was up for adoption, I asked the attendant what were the circumstances that brought this about. I learned that Patches was given to the kennel about six months earlier by someone who had lost her home through foreclosure. I was also informed that Patches had Feline Leukemia Virus (“FeLV”), a deadly virus that can be transmitted between cats. I was surprised, since Patches showed no outward signs of being in ill health. Indeed, my observations were that his eyes were clear and bright, his coat was full and shiny, and he was perky and very playful. Amazingly, although heart-wounded and confused by finding himself homeless - - the victim of a housing crisis he cannot understand - - love, nevertheless, still radiated from within Patches.
I was deeply saddened to learn about the unfortunate predicament that Patches was in and could not get him off my mind. The disturbing thought kept coming back of such a beautiful animal condemned to live out his life in a cold, metal cage. Given the grossly disproportionate number of homeless cats to available homes, the prospects of an adult cat being adopted was not very promising. Consequently, Patches, who was estimated to be about five years old, already had one strike against him. Couple this with the diagnosis of FeLV made an already difficult situation virtually impossible.
The realization that oftentimes life is not always fair did little to ease my troubled thoughts of the sad plight of this beautiful animal with the seemingly indomitable spirit. The nagging question tugged at my side of how much longer could Patches continue to be confined, until his spirit would be broken and he would no longer rub his head and purr with each passerby, having given up hope of finding the home that he so desperately needed. More importantly, was the question of how much longer would the kennel maintain Patches until he might be euthanized.
Out of frustration, I wrote an article about Patches’ story with the hope that it might result in finding a home for him to live out the remaining time in his life. Unfortunately, this effort was to no avail. Also, pleas to local shelters fell upon deaf ears, once they heard that Patches had FeLV. However, one shelter, Feline Fiends of Florida, mentioned they knew of a place that accepted cats with FeLV. That was the first time I learned of “Home For Life” and its dedicated work on behalf of homeless companion pets, and, in particular, those with special needs.
Immediately, the article about Patches was sent to Home For Life with a request that they provide him with a permanent home. As I was waiting for their reply, I read on their website that there are two tests to determine if a cat is FeLV-positive. The most commonly used test is ELISA, which is typically performed in a veterinarian’s office, but the website noted that ELISA can produce a false-positive. It also noted that there was another test for FeLV, which is done in a medical laboratory, and its results are considered conclusive. The name of that test is Indirect Fluorescent Antibody (“IFA”).
Although it was a long shot, an IFA test presented a flickering hope for Patches. I contacted the vet in charge of the kennel and asked permission for Patches to be given an IFA test on the off-chance that he had a false-positive. The vet agreed. A few days later, I received a phone call with the test results. Patches was negative! The obvious implications for Patches meant a fighting chance to find a home. Beyond the implications for Patches, was the question of how many countless cats have been euthanized, or doomed to an existence in quarantine, and could have been spared by a simple confirmatory test. The lesson is that where ELISA is positive for FeLV, an extra step of a confirmatory IFA test should be taken before cat owners resign their pet (and themselves) to the consequences of this devastating disease.
While Patches had overcome his biggest battle, he still faced an uphill struggle in his search for a home. After learning that Patches was negative, I contacted Feline Friends to make them aware of the potential benefits of an IFA test and mentioned to one of its directors (Beth) that the shelter where Patches was housed did not have a website that promoted adoptions. Beth offered to post Patches for adoption on their website. Notwithstanding that Patches was in perfect health, the adoption posting did not lead to a home. Despite now being confined to a cage for nearly nine months, Patches had not given up hope. This was manifested when Patches would continue to rub his head and purr with each visit to the kennel to reassure him that he was not forgotten. It was as though, if Patches could speak, he might say: “Please, save me, so I can live the rest of my life as a happy cat with someone to love”.
The question remained, was there someone, somewhere - - an angel - - who would open their heart and give Patches the ultimate gesture of kindness, a loving home. Then one day, while I was visiting Feline Friends, a volunteer (Joyce) arrived and mentioned to Beth that she knew of someone who would be coming to the shelter with a view towards adopting a cat. Beth responded that I knew a cat named Patches who was in need of a home. When Joyce heard about the Patches article, she offered to send it to this lady. A few weeks later, I learned that this person would be going to the kennel to see Patches on the following day. My initial enthusiasm of this news was dashed, however, when Joyce mentioned that the woman really wanted a female cat. The following day, I received an e-mail from Joyce. The note read: “Wonderful News. Patches now has a new home. Marcia went to the kennel today and fell in love with him. She brought him home where he will be loved beyond belief. Patches sleeps with Marcia and follows her around like a puppy dog”.
Ira Fischer is a graduate of the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Law is an attorney-at-law admitted to practice in the State of New York (now retired). Ira’s greatest passion is animal welfare and he is a member of Home For Life’s Legacy Society. Ira’s Bio can be seen on his website: www.irafischer.com. The website’s theme is Kindness and Compassion for Animals and it contains informative material for those interested in animal welfare. Readers are welcome to contact Ira Fischer at: firstname.lastname@example.org.