In many ways rescue has been at the forefront and a leader in animal welfare for many years. We were the ones that first started adoption applications and home checks. We were the ones advocating for improving options to euthanizations for the more difficult to adopt, or animals with shelter borne virus's like ringworm and kennel cough. We were also the ones who started shelter communal housing for cats. I remember the days when we were looked down upon because of concerns regarding infection control and traditional shelters individually caged all of their cats. We were also at the forefront of recognizing due to scientific research that FIV cats were not as contagious to other cats as originally thought and could live with unaffected cats as long as they were spayed and neutered and there was no direct blood to blood contact.
Since starting to provide shelter care for cats, I have always followed the communal model. Cats are happier and less stressed and because of this actually remain healthier. However none of our cats are ever released into communal living without first being tested for feline leukemia, I think most rescues who manage communal shelter cats do exactly the same. And I think because of this we are seeing far less feline leukemia than we did a dozen years ago. Part of this is because rescues and shelters are no longer exposing healthy cats to this disease while in shelter care and then inadvertently adopting them out to the public unknowingly. And part of this is of course due to spay and neuter, and TNR programs.
We used to have an active and thriving feline leukemia area for affected cats. Over the years we learned how to keep them as healthy as possible while accepting that ultimately they were palliative too. But that area eventually became empty as the cats passed away and no new ones found their way here.
Last year we took in Ariel a young kitten who had tested positive to FeLV, we set up a separate area for her and a few months later we re tested several times to find that she had fought off the disease and was now negative.
FeLV area empty again.
We have a new FeLV cat coming to us in the next week or so. The FeLV area will be opened again and we will keep her as healthy as we can including re-testing in case she reverts back to negative at some point.
Even chronic FeLV cats who must live separately from healthy cats can live relatively healthy with a good quality of life if they are cared for responsibly and appropriately. SAINTS is happy to enter into a commitment again to the cats affected by this disease. Even tho we see far fewer FeLV's now than we did in the past, we feel it is still important to try to help them as best as we can.
Gone are the days of automatic euthanizations of FeLV affected cats, SAINTS and others like us have stepped up to offer more options for caring for these cats longer term...the cats really appreciate that!
SAINTS saved our newly adopted cat from being put down when diagnosed with FeLV. Our vet recommended it as we had another cat. On SAINTS' advise we housed our FeLV cat at a completely different address to ours, treated her symptoms as they presented (sore eyes etc). After a month she was retested. She has been clear now for about 8 years.