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Rose Dempsey

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A warning to those who foster or take in stray cats or kittens
By Rose Dempsey   
Not "rated" by the Author.
Last edited: Saturday, August 06, 2005
Posted: Saturday, August 06, 2005

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Exposure to Feline Leukemia can be a death sentence to a healthy kitten

The past couple of days have taught me a lesson I will never forget ... and I hope to save others the heartache and stress we have gone through, by letting them know how we've learned the hard way. If you find a stray or feral kitten or cat, before you take it into your home with other cats, please take it to your vet for a feline leukemia test.

I foster for one of the many groups in the Greenville area that rescues cats and kittens, and invariably people who know that I foster, call and beg me to take these foundlings or this pregnant mama, and I have always tried to do my best.

So it was when I got a call from a lady I had already fostered a litter from, asking me to take two feral mamas and some kittens that she was going to trap at her place of work. She worried they were soon going to be too big to handle and domesticate, so my husband and I went with her to trap these animals. The one kitten from the older litter was the sole survivor, and we assumed the others had fallen prey to predators while the mother wasn't around.

The other litter of four was perhaps a week younger. Well, we managed to get all the kittens the first day but no mamas, so there was a night of bottle feeding with goats milk mixed with kitten formula. A couple were a little spicy tempered but on the whole they seemed quite comfortable being touched by humans. The next day the lady called me back and said she had trapped the mama of the four. She duly brought her to me, and this one definitely WAS feral, and I put her in the playpen cage with all the kittens. She adopted the other kitten easily enough, we think they were probably aunt and niece, as both mamas ran together and the kittens had been barely a few feet apart under the building they had been collected from.

For four weeks, these animals lived in my foster kitten playroom, in the playpen cage but in the same room as the other 6 that I was fostering at the time. 6 that had already been spayed and tested for feline leukemia and HIV, and been negative.

So it was until yesterday when the older kitten went to the vet to be tested and spayed, and our world fell apart. Positive on the feline leukemia, and she had to be euthanized. Immediately a panic set in, what of the other kittens? What of the mama? The four smaller kittens went into the vet to be tested, today and all came home in a little white box to be buried with the bigger kitten, in our pet cemetery in the garden.

The mama being feral, nobody could take her today but she will see a vet Monday. My heart tells me she will suffer the same fate as her kittens, and I've cried today but know I have to do this. Leukemia is an awful disease and kills in a painful way. My only consolation is that they've been loved a little while they've been with me, sheltered from the weather and fed decent food. Their lives, though short, were happy.

And then additional panic, and we ran the rounds of a couple of vets with the 6 foster kittens who had previously tested negative. They had not shared litter or food with the others but had been in the same room, we had them retested and vaccinated. The vets said that based on the circumstances they felt that the chance of these 6 having been infected were very slim. It was a day that was costly in time and money, but far more costly in the emotional effects. We've cried more than a few tears today and know that Monday may bring more.

For now, mama is alone in the playpen in the laundry room, probably both wondering where her kittens have gone and mourning their loss. The foster kittens are in the kitchen, unable to go in the laundry room - which has all their play area set up in it - until after Monday when we either know the mama is not positive or, if she is, when she and the playpen will no longer be in there.

Our own adult cats, luckily vaccinated against leukemia every time we've had their shots done on the mobile van, are now just in the rest of the house and not allowed in either of the other areas.

Tonight, every cat carrier we've used today, every toy played with by the kittens, bedding, blankets and towels, everything has been either scrubbed down with bleach or been laundered with bleach.

It's been a very sad day. I don't want anyone else to suffer like we have done. Please, save yourself this heartache. If you have other cats in your home and you find a stray, BEFORE you take it into your house, take it to the vet and make sure it tests negative first.

It is sad enough when a cute kitten or cat you've just found has to be euthanized, it is even worse when you have put your other cats at risk. Please learn from my mistake so that you don't have to feel this way.

Reader Reviews for "A warning to those who foster or take in stray cats or kittens"

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Reviewed by Cynthia Borris 8/7/2005

So sorry. I foster through an animal rescue organization and early on, one doesn't know much except the babe needs love, food and shelter. Fortunately, the current agency I foster under takes excellent care of the kittens. Not so elsewhere. Not that they don't have heart, money is an issue, protocol supercedes, and this is a bumper crop season of kittens.

I'll send hugs and comfort your direction on Monday. I lost two foster babes earlier this month and understand.

Reviewed by Jennifer Butler 8/6/2005
I think strays should be left alone. We could be deceived and under the wrong impression about where they belong.

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