My Pet World / Pets

My Pet World: TLC and good nutrition could boost FIV-positive cat's health

Q: I've gone back and forth about the prospect of fostering Mojo, an FIV-positive cat from a shelter. After reading about it, I've learned how common FIV is among male stray cats in the Philippines. Unlike in some other countries, animal welfare facilities here lack space, funding, staff and volunteers. I decided to fund a modest-sized cattery for FIV cats, but somehow, this didn't seem like enough. Mojo is still on my mind. I never thought of myself as a cat person, but I felt I had to help him.

During Mojo's first evening at the vet's office, he was diagnosed with a blocked ventricular valve, diabetes and a chronic eye infection. Once he settled into my home, he quickly began to engage with his surroundings, and has become very affectionate. I have three dogs, and I'd like to see if everyone can live in relative peace. Any suggestions? -- M.O., Philippines

A: "It's true that FIV (the feline immunodeficiency virus) is very common among male feral cats," confirms legendary veterinarian Dr. Niels Pedersen, distinguished Professor in the Department of Veterinary Medicine and Epidemiology at the Center for Companion Animal Health, University of California-Davis.

Of course, Pedersen has no way to know the extent of Mojo's health issues. Diabetes can be treated with regular insulin injections. Many diabetic cats are overweight, and with weight loss, exercise and a quality low carbohydrate diet, remission is possible. The heart problem might be a serious issue. Eye problems are common in FIV cats. Still, with consistent good nutrition and living indoors, Pedersen says even some "iffy health" in FIV cats can improve. Many times, these cats die quite elderly of problems associated with old age -- not FIV. However, regular proactive veterinary care is vital.

While Pedersen applauds your efforts to save cats by building a cattery, the real problem lies in the overwhelming problem of street cats in many countries.

"These street cats have been associated with people for eons," he notes.

Pedersen says your FIV-positive cat can't infect another species. Unless Mojo has had an awful experience with dogs, or your dogs are accustomed to chasing cats, your pets should all get along. Just remember, the more careful and gradual the introduction, the better.

I'm not sure if Feliway is available in the Philippines. If it is, plug a Feliway duffuser into the room where you're keeping Mojo, away from the dogs when you can't supervise. This product is a copy of a calming pheromone found on cats' cheek pads (cats deposit pheromones when they rub their cheek pads on your leg or a table leg). Also, take a clean towel and rub Mojo's cheek pads. Now rub that towel on your dogs to transfer the scent. You could also spray a touch of vanilla or lavender on the dogs and Mojo so they share a common scent.

When first introducing Mojo to your dogs, leash the dogs, and take no chances. What you don't want is a dog to chase Mojo; even in fun, Mojo won't find this amusing. Offer your cat some escape routes using vertical space which your dogs can't get to, such as a high book shelf or window ledge.

It's amazing how smitten you became with Mojo - and what a wonderful thing you've done!

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