Homeless FIV-Positive Cat Gets a New Start

Gepetto loves to curl up comfortably on a queen bed in his new home. Butlife hasn’t always been that easy for the big orange cat. His rescuers think the tabby spent most of his life on the streets in Baltimore.

That changed recently when a resident in the neighborhood where he hung out noticed that he was scratching his ears raw, according to a news release from Best Friends Animal Society. She called animal control, and Gepetto was taken in by the Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter(BARCS), where he tested positive for feline immunodeficiency virus, or FIV.

Read Also: 9 Cat Breeds Who Crave Affection

Understanding FIV

FIV attacks a cats immune system, similar to HIV in humans. FIV is contagious among cats, although a cat can go for years without showing signs of illness. Its primarily transmitted through bites from an infected cat. Male cats roaming outside, like Gepetto, tend to have an increased risk of the untreatable disease because of their tendency to fight other cats. The disease cant be transmitted to humans. Luckily for Gepetto, several groups stepped in to help him. Once he tested positive, BARCS contacted the Community Cats Project, which is a partnership between Best Friends and PetSmart Charities, and they immediately took him.

An assessment revealed that Gepetto was also suffering from an upper-respiratory infection and had ear mites, which was why he was excessively scratching. Hed scratched so much hed left his ears stubby and bent over, like a Scottish Fold. His caregivers lovingly referred to him as a “Baltimore Fold.”

The Feline Rescue Association started looking for a foster for Gepetto and quickly found the perfect situation for him with Trish Tilson. Tilson specializes in fostering cats with FIV.

An Instant Connection

When I saw his photos, I immediately fell in love with him, she told Best Friends. I have had two FIV-positive cats and two non-FIV cats living comfortably, happily and healthily together for years.

FIV is typically not as easily transmissible as FeLV, or feline leukemia virus, which is another untreatable disease in cats. As long as FIV-positive cats arent aggressive with the FIV-negative cats in a household, the risk of spreading the disease is relatively low. Although a vaccine is available for FIV-negative cats, it doesn’t protect against all strains of the virus. FeLV, on the other hand, can be spread through more casual contact, such as grooming or sharing food bowls. Because FIV isnt spread as easily, cats with it can be great adoptees, explains Dr. Patty Khuly. She also shares her thoughts what you should know about adopting a cat with FIV.

After years on the street, Gepetto didnt waste any time adapting to the comforts of home. Hes been indulging in a warm bed to sleep on, a steady source of food and lots of affection.

Tilson has discovered that he has quite the personality. She said hes a talker and is always looking for someone to give him some love and some food.

When I walk into the room, hell look up at me as if to say, Is it dinnertime yet? she says.

And it seems like Gepetto understands how good he has it now.

I truly believe some of these cats, especially the older ones, know they have hit the jackpot,” Tilson says.

By Amy Sinatra Ayres

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89 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Linda C.
Linda C4 years ago

We have had an FIV positive cat since 2000, also a red male (they seem to be more easily infected) and he is the sweetest cat ever. FIV is spread only when the infected cat bites another cat, and Barney would never bite anyone. He does have a chronic mouth infection (a not-unusual companion of FIV) that causes him to drool but we have covered the furniture with 'Barney cloths' and wear old clothes when he is on our laps. He is a loving companion and, as we often tell him, we are lucky that he found us.

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Lisa Zarafonetis
Lisa Zarafonetis4 years ago

What a sweet baby!!! That face is absolutely the cutest!!! :D

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Betty H.
Betty H4 years ago

We took in a young cat (all black with greenish-yellow eyes) who arrived on our doorstep. When I took her to the vet for vaccinations & neutering, it was found that she is FIV positive. I thought she would have to be put down, but the vet, and a timely article on this site, I decided to keep her. She lived outside until we were adopted by a dog - we brought her inside, but it proved impossible for her to adapt to the litter box, no matter what we tried. After finding poop everywhere in the house (beds, sofas, potted plants), we reluctantly had to put her outside again. She has a warm place under the house to go when it's cold. When it is warm, she spends most of her time on a small balcony. She has so far not apparently developed any health problems aside from what she had when she arrived (stomatitis). She purrs madly when I pick her up and pet her. Her name is Bella, and I hope she continues to do well for many many years

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Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey4 years ago

Love a happy ending

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Elena Poensgen
Elena Poensgen4 years ago

Thank you

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Glennis Whitney
Glennis W4 years ago

Very interesting reading, thank you for sharing so glad Gepetto is really living it up on his queen size bed,and has been taken in by such lovely people, thank you for sharing.

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Glennis Whitney
Glennis W4 years ago

Thank you for sharing, Fiv is a horrible disease, so glad Gepetto is living up his life in a caring home, thank you for sharing.

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Theresa Hughes
Theresa Hughes4 years ago

FIV is a terrible terrible disease

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Hent Catalina-Maria

Thanks for sharing.

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