FIV positive cat escaped euthanizing, lived full life
July 9, 2013
By Joe Grove
The rest of the story can now be told. In 1997, The Issaquah Press reported on Pepe, a young cat infected with feline immunodeficiency virus.
The cat was brought to Meadows Cat Hospital to be euthanized, and Dr. Dave Loehndorf couldn’t bring himself to do it. He kept talking to clients about it, hoping someone would volunteer to take the animal.
He finally found a willing volunteer to adopt Pepe in Carolyn Petro. She renamed the cat Pablo and he lived with her to the ripe old cat age of 17. He died March 20.
Petro said at the time she agreed to adopt Pablo, they had a cat that had just died. Loehndorf told her he knew she had a home that did not let cats outside and asked if she would take the cat.
“I knew the cat had FIV and I asked Dr. Loehndorf what the end of life looked like for a cat with FIV,” Petro said. “I was thinking about the expense, and he said if it was too expensive, they would help. I spent less money and had fewer problems with Pablo with FIV than with my dog. He was just like a regular cat.”
“A cat with FIV is not a death sentence at all,” Petro said. “Dr. Loehndorf said Pablo would probably live seven years and he lived almost 17.”
Dr. Jason D. Laramore, current veterinarian at Meadows Cat Hospital, said only about 2 percent or 3 percent of cats contract FIV. He said it is transmitted either through blood, saliva or at birth. It is most common among fighting tomcats that are allowed outside.
“I don’t think we know how Pablo contracted his, but he had it as a kitten, so it was probably from his mother,” Wendy Cynkar, Meadows office manager said. “Not every kitten in the litter will get it, but some can.”
Laramore said FIV is not epidemic because the shelters do a good job of checking, testing early and with spaying programs. He said the practice has maybe two or three cases a year. Neutering tomcats makes them more docile, less territorial and less smelly, he said.
“There is now a vaccine for it, which is not readily used, but it is out there, so that may be helping as well,” he said. ”The vaccine is not a cure. Rather, it prevents infection, so the high-risk cats are the ones that are going outside, the ones that are fighting. You can vaccinate them for it. In theory, it will prevent them from getting it. It is not a 100 percent-effective vaccine.”
Cynkar said Petro has a second FIV cat.
“The other kitty living with her is fine,” she said. “He didn’t get it from Pablo. It was just one we got in here, and she was willing to take it.”
“The big thing is to keep them safe from other animals so they don’t pass on the disease,” Laramore said of FIV infected cats. “We are diagnosing it early and then treating the complications of the disease. There still is no definitive treatment for the virus itself, so you need to support them through it. These cats get secondary infections often and that can be the cause of death in the end.
“Definitely there are expenses associated with it,” he added. “You have to go into it knowing that eventually the cat is going to succumb to the disease. In the end, we were seeing Pablo every two or three months. The expense would not be onerous.”
When asked what life was like for Pablo, Petro said, “Oh, he was the king of the house. He was my cat. He would follow me wherever I would go. When I sat down, he would jump on my lap. He was a very devoted cat, very sweet.
“FIV is not a death sentence at all. I have my second cat with FIV and there are no significant ramifications, it is not significantly different from having any other cat. I hope Pablo’s story will live on and inspire others to adopt FIV cats.”