A Caregiver's Tale: FIV Lessons Learned from Russ

Suz, AHELP Project community member and volunteer, tells of her journey adopting a feral cat with Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. Suz sought answers to the questions she had about the disease, and learned of choices she had in planning for his continued well-being. Read about how she became empowered with this information, and how she grew as a result of her experience.

What has your experience been with caring for a cat with FIV? 


Russ: happy, healthy, at home. (photo: Suz)

Many years ago I met Russ as a semi-feral cat who was surviving with other abandoned cats in my apartment complex where I used to live. Even when I put food out, this sweet but senior orange tabby kept his distance from me and all people. Then two years later, one day he ran up to me and rolled at my feet. Another kitty was reaching out to me...what should I do?

I was reluctant to take Russ in because I already had a geriatric cat, but he finally won me over when he won over my Siamese Snowshoe, Ginger, too. I feared that our relationship was to become short lived, however, when I took Russ to a veterinarian: his blood results revealed that he had Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV). I was distraught!

I knew very little about FIV then and thought: can I handle this? Do I need to find a more suitable home for Russ? Could uninfected Ginger catch Russ’ FIV? 

But what I eventually learned is that FIV is a virus that simply compromises a cat’s immune system but the condition doesn't inherantly cause a decline. The virus is spread from deep bite wounds, which commonly occurs with outdoor cats because they are territorial. This meant that Russ became an indoor cat. And, for five years, Russ shared food bowls and litter boxes with Ginger – and bathed her – and she never caught his FIV.

As Ginger’s health declined, both Russ and I were by her side until she passed at 17.5 years old. Later, in honor of Ginger, and of Russ’ love for Ginger, I adopted Sasha, a Siamese Snowshoe with FIV. One year later, Russ started to lose a tremendous amount a weight. Sadly, he also passed from his FIV.

Despite Russ’ FIV, he chose to share his love and trust - and Ginger and I were blessed for it. This experience also led me to attend AHELP Project first open house. I am now a volunteer for AHELP – and I believe that was no accident!

To learn more about Suz and the work that she does in her business called Intuitive Insight Connectionvisit her website here.

To learn more about the feline immunodeficiency virus, including causes, symptoms, and treatment, visit this helpful link.

To learn about common FIV myths and facts, you can visit this link.

On Facebook, please visit the Support F.I.P. Research community page to learn more about kitties and their families, and to get useful information to support you in your journey as a caregiver of a cat with feline immunodeficiency virus. 

What has your kitty taught you about FIV? Please comment here. 

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