Annex Cat Rescue: Cat Adoption with A Difference

Annex Cat Rescue is a 100% volunteer charity dedicated to addressing the plight of homeless cats in the Greater Toronto Area by:

  1. Humanely trapping homeless kittens and abandoned or stray adult cats for placement in our foster and adoption program;
  2. Feeding and providing medical care for feral cats in designated colonies;
  3. Curbing population growth in those colonies through trapping, spaying/neutering, and vaccinating;
  4. Educating the public on the compassionate treatment of homeless cats and responsible pet ownership; and
  5. Improving urban environments through community cooperation.
  • FeLV+ Cats: Completely Adoptable (and Lovable) with Some Caveats

    Sheena is a darling orange-and-grey dilute calico girl and Checkers is a tuxedoed gentleman. Their personalities vary as much as their appearance, but the one thing they do have in common — FeLV+ status — doesn’t slow them down.

    Sheena and Checkers

    Their foster parent, Mavis, had never heard of FeLV when she was considering fostering Sheena back in October 2017. This isn’t surprising as FeLV only affects a small percentage of the feline population. “In North America, approximately 3.5 percent of the feline population is infected with FeLV,” confirms Dr. Esther Attard, chief veterinarian at Toronto Animal Services.

    At first, Mavis was concerned about caring for a FeLV+ cat, so she researched the topic and quickly learned that FeLV is feline leukemia virus. It is one of the most infectious viruses among cats and is the cause of a variety of diseases, not just leukemia. FeLV is specific to members of the cat family and does not pose a risk to other species of animals or people.

    “When I researched online, the main side effect is a shortened life span, but that shouldn’t be a determining factor to turn away from adopting a cat with FeLV as they make wonderful companions,” says Mavis.

    “FeLV is generally a disease for outdoor cats. If you allow your cats to go outdoors, they should be vaccinated in case they come in contact with other cats that are positive,” says veterinarian, Dr. Vlad Stefanescu, owner of Toronto’s Yonge-Davenport Pet Hospital
    .
    Unlike FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus), which is spread mostly through bites and territorial fighting (a.k.a. “the fighters disease”), FeLV is spread through more casual contact, including mutual grooming and sharing of food bowls (“the lovers disease”). ACR performs viral tests on cats that are rescued from high-risk situations, such as unneutered, mature males living on the street, as well as cats that have symptoms that their veterinarians suspect could be caused by FIV or FeLV.

    Sheena
    When Sheena was rescued by Annex Cat Rescue volunteers, she was in very bad shape. She had initially been brought to a spay-neuter clinic as a trap-neuter-return cat from one of the city’s many colonies, but she went into respiratory arrest at the beginning of her surgery. The only alternative to euthanasia was to transfer her to one of ACR’s private veterinary clinic partners, where she was monitored and rehydrated, and treated for upper respiratory, gastrointestinal and paw infections, and a horrible ulcer on her tongue. Her symptoms led the vet to recommend a viral test, which is how it was discovered that she was FeLV+.

    Once a cat has tested positive for FeLV there is no cure, but a cat’s quality of life can be maintained or improved through treatment. This begins with completing baseline bloodwork and treatments that focus on immune system support, says Dr. Attard. “Outdoor cats should be kept strictly indoors as an only cat so they do not infect other cats and their vaccines should be kept up-to-date. Dental disease is very common among FeLV+ cats so proper dental hygiene is important,” adds Dr. Stefanescu.

    Sheena

    It took Sheena a while to settle into her foster home. When she arrived, she was quite nervous, which is not surprising considering her history. She has adjusted to indoor living, and Mavis has fallen in love with her personality.

    After two years in ACR care, Sheena is also healthier than ever, says Jacqueline Chan, ACR’s Foster Coordinator. She is in the symptomatic stages of FeLV and takes an immune-supporting medication every other week, but she has recovered from her infections, put weight on, and gotten stronger and happier during her time in foster care. She was even doing so well that she was scheduled for her long-awaited spay surgery and some dental extractions a few months ago, and she went into her first heat cycle in two years a week before her surgery date.

    Usually a FeLV+ cat needs to be the only cat in a home. “Indoor cats can pass on the virus to their housemates through mutual grooming, sharing water bowls, mating or at birth. Cats sharing a home with an infected cat are at high risk of disease,” says Dr. Attard. If a cat living in a home with other cats tests positive for FeLV, it is important to separate the infected cat and retest exposed cats at least 90 days later to ensure they are negative, Dr. Attard says. ACR will not let a FeLV+ cat live with viral negative cats. However, FeLV+ cats can happily live with another FeLV+ cat, which is how Sheena got a new buddy — Checkers!

    Checkers

    Young Checkers came into ACR’s care after being found in the frigid cold weather of January 2018. He tested positive for FeLV and FIV, but is not currently showing any signs or symptoms. With limited foster home options for a FeLV+ cat, Checkers moved in with Mavis and Sheena. He quickly made himself at home and warmed up to his feline and human companions. He has adjusted to life indoors and become a playful cuddlebug. His quality of life has improved immensely.

    Dr. Attard warns that FeLV+ cats may experience a gradual decline in their health over time. They can develop anemia, a weakened immune system or certain types of cancer. Prognosis is poor for cats with FeLV-associated cancers‎, she says.

    “Cats infected with FeLV are by nature immunocompromised. Someone thinking of adopting would need to be prepared for when they get sick as they need to be vetted as soon as possible. A potential adopter would also need to be prepared financially because there is a possibly for larger vet bills,” says Dr. Stefanescu.

    Annex Cat Rescue advises people thinking of adopting a FeLV+ cat that like any cat, vet costs will be much higher toward the end of their life, and statistically this is likely to be much sooner with a FeLV+ cat, so adopters need to be conscious of and comfortable with setting aside funds proactively so they are available when needed.

    Dr. Attard warns that 85 percent of cats with FeLV die within three years of diagnosis‎. “You can provide supportive care to try and keep the cat comfortable for as long as possible and if the cat cannot be kept comfortable, humane euthanasia must be considered,” says Dr. Attard.

    This is especially true when a feral cat is FeLV+ as the symptoms can strike hard and fast when they occur, and nobody wants to risk having a cat suffer through that alone on the street. Ideally, outdoor cats would be indoors to prevent the spread of infection, but this is not possible with feral cats. “That would be the most difficult situation for us, and if that happened for one of the feral cats who was not yet showing symptoms of FeLV, ACR would work to find some sort of safe enclosed space or sanctuary for the cat, as an alternative to euthanasia,” says ACR’s Jacqueline Chan.

    Sheena and Checkers

    As for Sheena and Checkers, Checkers turned out to be a bit too energetic and playful for Sheena, so he has moved to a new foster home where he is the only cat. They are both thriving and their adorable antics have been captured by Mavis and shared at https://www.instagram.com/sheenancheckers.fostergram/. Checkers is currently looking for his forever home and Sheena will be available for adoption soon.

    “Sheena and especially Checkers may have years of good life ahead of them and they both deserve to spend that time in a loving forever home,” says Chan.

    –Jillian Kaster

  • SAVE THE DATE – Sunday October 21st, 2018!

    join Team ACR in 2018

    For the fourth year in a row, ACR has entered a team in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon Charity Challenge that includes a 5km walk/run, a half marathon and a full marathon. Last year Team ACR was 40 runners and walkers strong and this year we are going for 50! It doesn’t matter if you want to run or walk — all that matters is that you care about homeless cats and want to make a difference! To join Team ACR please contact: mariannep@annexcatrescue.org

  • Don’t look past a cat just because it’s not a kitten…

    Cats come in all shapes and sizes, from gorgeous ginger to brilliant black. Sometimes, they also come with special needs like daily medication. Some are older, some are timid, some bear the scars of homelessness. What unites ACR cats is their ability to love given half a chance. Don’t look past a cat just because it’s not a kitten…

    see our current adoptable cats

    adopt an adult cat

    a pill a day is nothing to worry about

    street cats have a rough life

    some have to learn to trust all over again

    some cats love each other so much

    Ready to receive unconditional love from an ACR rescue cat?

    see our current adoptable cats

  • The happy truth about FIV+ cats (hint: they’re totally adoptable)

    He might not relish the role but eight-year old Winston could be the global ambassador for FIV+ cats.

    Winston

    That’s because Winston is both a classic example of how most cats come to be infected with the immune deficiency virus and, more importantly, a persuasive example of just how manageable – normal, really – life with an FIV+ cat can be both for its human caregivers and for any potential feline flatmates.

    Winston’s story is a handy testimonial for anyone who may encounter an FIV+ cat candidate in an adoption search.

    Winston - FIV cat

    “Winston is very playful and has a lot of energy,” confirms foster Mom Alexandra, who grew up with another cat, Baltimore, which was also FIV+. She continues: “Winston is always hungry – he loves to eat. He is super-loving.”

    Once homeless, Winston doubtless became infected with FIV via a deep bite wound that occurred during a fight with another male cat over turf or food. FIV almost always presents in males, and transmission is almost always through intense fighting.

    FIV – which stands for feline immunodeficiency virus, just as HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus – can be transmitted sexually in cats and through improperly screened blood transfusions. But according to experts, it’s rare. Mother cats cannot readily infect their kittens except in the initial stages of her infection.

    Casual contact such as sharing food bowls, grooming or snuggling is unlikely to transmit the virus. Meaning that unless indoor cats have screaming brawls where blood is drawn, FIV negative cats sharing a home with an FIV+ cat won’t contract the virus.

    Indeed, veterinarian Dr. Vlad Stefanescu of Toronto’s Yonge-Davenport Pet Hospital says adopting an FIV+ cat and integrating it into a multi-cat household is something he endorses, albeit with a few caveats.

    “The only real considerations for FIV+ cat adoption are slightly more frequent vet visits, keeping the cats indoors and avoidance of a raw diet,” he says.

    That’s because uncooked foods, meats especially, can include parasites and pathogens that a cat with a normal immune system might be able to handle but an FIV+ cat might not. Leave the fad diets to Gwyneth Paltrow and stick to regular cat food, says Dr. Stefanescu.

    All cats should be kept indoors. However, owners of FIV+ cats have a particular obligation to keep their pets away from homeless cats in their community to help contain the virus. As for more frequent vet visits – recommended twice a year for FIV+ cats versus once-annually for non-geriatric FIV negative cats – that’s mainly because “Dental is also a big thing with these guys,” Dr. Stefanescu says.

    “They suffer stomatitis [a severe, painful inflammation of a cat’s mouth and gums that can cause ulcers to form]. Some FIV cats just have bad teeth and need a full mouth extraction. The majority of FIV cats need regular dental work.”

    Plus, regular vet visits allow owners and vets to monitor small changes such as weight loss that might be more significant in an FIV+ cat. Vaccinations, meanwhile, should be maintained for FIV+ cats just as they are for other cats.

    Humans cannot be infected with FIV; FIV is a cats-only infection. Dr. Stefanescu pegs the prevalence of FIV among owned cats at about five percent. “Leukaemia (FeLV) is actually more common,” he says, adding that he has never treated a cat that contracted FIV from another cat in a domestic situation.

    Adds Alexandra, “FIV has never been an issue with Winston and it wasn’t with my cat Baltimore either. I don’t remember exactly how old Baltimore was when he passed away but he had quite a long life.”

    So the takeaway for prospective cat adopters: don’t shy away from an FIV+ cat.

    If you are adopting a cat directly from the street, be sure to have the cat tested while he (or she) is at the vet being spayed/neutered, vaccinated, microchipped and typically readied for a new life indoors. Remember that cats with FIV do not always appear sick. In the early stages of the disease, many cats show few signs, so the only way to know for sure if they are infected is through a simple blood test.

    Should an FIV+ positive cat catch you eye on ACR’s adoption listings, don’t reject the cat in knee-jerk fashion. You can’t catch FIV, your other cats probably won’t either, and you’ll be giving a forever home to a lovely fella who will reward you daily with purrs and cuddles.

    Just ask Winston.

    — Kim Hughes

    Update: Winston was adopted!

    Additional reading: http://www.pethealthnetwork.com/cat-health/cat-diseases-conditions-a-z/feline-immunodeficiency-virus-fiv

  • Sam’s Story

    Sam in his colonyMeet Sam. Sam had been living in an Annex Cat Rescue colony for a few years, where ACR volunteers fed and interacted with him daily. Because Sam was so friendly and showed signs of being open to human contact, ACR volunteers decided he would be a good candidate to be fostered and adopted. It can often be difficult to foster an adult feral cat that has been raised without human contact and some cats are not able to make this transition. The first step in determining this is to do an assessment.

    An assessment determines if living indoors with humans is an option for a cat. Some adult cats born and raised in feral colonies cannot be domesticated and will never be happy living with humans. These cats are often neutered and released back into their colonies as part of a Trap Neuter Return (TNR) program in an effort to stabilize the number of feral cats in the community. One of the main things a person doing an assessment looks for is temperament; this is a good indication of whether a cat will become comfortable in a human home.

    The assessment process usually takes a few weeks; socializing can take a few more weeks and usually continues in the foster home. ACR volunteers can assess cats within an assessment home, or remotely once a foster home is found. Mobile assessment is often a better option because there is less movement for the cat.

    Sam getting the treatment he needed

    Sam had been waiting for an assessment home when he was taken in by ACR volunteer, Marianne. A reality with most adult feral cats, and with Sam, is chronic disease. Efforts to feed and care for feral cats by ACR and other organizations often extend the life of feral colonies, and accelerated age can invite chronic disease for these cats. This is a reality that assessment and foster homes often must combat in the care and socialization process. Sam was brought into an assessment home with serious dental disease. Dental issues are very common with older cats and are often hard to spot while the cats are in feral colonies. Sam was still eating daily but was in a lot of pain and had to have most of his teeth extracted, in addition to dealing with vaccinations, worms and neutering. ACR takes on the cost of these expenses as part of the assessment process.

    Sam’s medical issues played a role in his socialization process; he was in a lot of pain before and after the surgery, and stopped eating altogether during the overwhelming process. As a result Sam did not make much progress until his medical issues were attended to and he was recovering. This is a common issue that assessment and foster homes must be open and compassionate about in order to achieve success with their cats.

    Sam's bathroom set up

    After Sam had recovered his progress remained slow until he was introduced to Marianne’s cat. “He instantly perked up,” Marianne tells us, once Sam met her small cat. Being around another cat gave Sam confidence and he began to come out of his shell. A large part of the assessment process is determining the best conditions for each individual cat to flourish. Some cats require solidarity, and some, like Sam, require other cats to be happy. For any foster home, however, it is often important to have a small, isolated room in which to begin the transition process. This allows the cat to get accustomed to its new home in a less overwhelming process, as Marianne did with Sam in her bathroom. Once the cat feels secure, other cats and humans can be introduced and eventually, the cat can explore the rest of the home.

    Sam relaxing

    Sam has been with Marianne since May — longer than average for an assessment home. He is currently waiting for a suitable foster home to become available so he can continue being socialized and eventually adopted. Sam has a gentle and shy nature, and loves being petted and brushed. He has learned that he does not need to be afraid of humans; however, his instincts sometimes take over when he becomes startled. This is a common obstacle with older feral cats and it can be a personality trait that never fades. The ideal home for Sam would be one with other cats for him to socialize with. Sam is very shy but loves attention and requires a gentle home, without small children because of his tendency to get startled. Marianne recommends a home with children 7 years and up. Contact ACR at 416-410-3835 if you think your home is an optimal foster home for Sam.

    —Kathy Ribeiro

    Update: Sam was adopted in late 2016 and is doing very well.

  • My Happy Tail of Adopting an Older Cat – Jasmine

    When I first walked in to Jasmine’s foster home a few months ago, I was ready to meet a sweet, shy cat of five and a half years. Her foster mom, Holly, had warned me before my visit that Jasmine would likely hide and may not be as excited to see me at first—as an older cat, she wouldn’t be as outgoing as a young kitten, and might need some time to warm up. I walked into the apartment and sat down with Jasmine in a smaller enclosed room. Within seconds, she crept out of her carrier and snuggled up to my leg, sitting down right next to me and purring softly.

    We only had a meet and greet for a few minutes before shyness prevailed and Jasmine scuttled back to her carrier—but I knew that our brief time together was just a glimpse at the affection she had to offer. I went home that night and thought of this beautiful cat with marled grey fur and stunning green eyes. With such a gentle disposition and calm demeanor, how had she not been adopted into a loving home yet?

    Happy Tails: Jasmine

    The next morning I woke up and called Holly. I wanted to give Jasmine a wonderful life and allow her to enjoy the rest of her years in a quiet, cozy forever home. When I went over to sign the paperwork and pick up Jasmine, I learned that she had been visited a few times by prospective adopters over the past year, but her initial shyness and older age contributed to adopters passing her over for younger, more outgoing cats and kittens. This made me very sad, to realize that so many older animals with less initial excitement toward new people were not getting the homes they deserve.

    During Jasmine’s first two to three weeks with me, she hid a lot in my front closet, only coming out at night to jump up on the bed and gently paw for some attention. I gave her the time and space that she seemed to want by setting out her food and toys, gently patting her and talking to her when she decided to come out, and letting her get comfortable in her new home on her own terms. The process of giving Jasmine time and space was a little bit hard at first for an owner who was so eager to spend time with her new cat, but it truly paid off.

    Three months later, Jasmine has completely come out of her shell. Not a morning goes by that she isn’t waiting at my door to greet me with lots of “good morning!” meows and leg rubs. Every morning and night she will reach up for a kiss on the nose to say good morning or good night. Throughout the day she rolls around playing with her favourite catnip toy, loves to be brushed, sleeps in the sunny spot on my bed, and enjoys looking out the window and having quiet, peaceful moments. As an older cat, she isn’t interested in scratching my furniture, and she is happy to enjoy downtime when I am at work—cheerfully running to the door and greeting me when I get home after enjoying a restful day. When I am around, she is with me every step of the way. Within seconds of sitting down on the couch with a book, she jumps up beside me and wants to snuggle down for quality time together—much as she did on the day we met.

    Happy Tails: Jasmine

    I wanted to share this story about Jasmine because it demonstrates that when given a little bit of time, patience, and love, an older cat can really let their personality shine and find comfort in a forever home. Jasmine may not have been the most outgoing cat upon first glance, but her gentle approach and willingness to come over and sit next to me was what mattered most. She wanted the connection just as much as I did. At five and a half years of age, Jasmine is a youthful, playful, and loving cat that clearly enjoys her life.

    Adopting an older cat doesn’t necessarily mean that the animal will not want to play or enjoy your company. It doesn’t mean that they are past their prime and won’t be loving or fun pets. I think the exact opposite is true: these animals are so patient and grateful to be given a forever home that they demonstrate love and companionship as often as they can when someone gives them a chance. When Jasmine rests her head on my lap and drifts off to sleep, her age doesn’t matter to me. We have a special bond that I feel every day, and no fewer or extra years would change that.

    Thank you for reading Jasmine’s story. I truly hope it encourages more adopters to consider giving an older cat a home. Jasmine is one of many older cats that wait patiently for someone to bring them home. Whether a cat is one year old, five, ten, or fifteen, their desire for love and companionship is unwavering. They will find a special place in your heart if you give them a chance.

    — Amy Ellen Soden

  • Happy Tails: Georgia and Gloria (formerly Peggy Sue and Betty Ann)

    Peggy Sue and Betty Ann, now referred to as Georgia and Gloria, were adopted by Elizabeth and her family as tiny kittens from Annex Cat Rescue. Gloria, assertive and forthright in her position as queen of the house, is the dominant one of the pair. In contrast, Georgia is rather laidback and relaxed in roaming the house.

    On first sight, the two can easily pass as identical twins. The secret to telling them apart is to know their unique markings. Georgia looks like she is wearing a uniform. In fact, soon after adopting the two kittens, Elizabeth’s kids began referring to Georgia as “Worker Pants,” because the markings on her hind legs look like she’s wearing white pants.

    HappyTails: Georgia & Gloria

    Both are extremely gentle—they even share a bed with the kids each night. In short, the kitties are simply inseparable from their owners. Thanks to their foster mom Liz, the cats are sociable and friendly, especially with strangers. According to Elizabeth, “Our cats are quick to snuggle up to visitors. They purr and jump up on to their laps in hopes of some tummy rubs—which they always receive without fail! They are all about receiving attention and lots of it!”

    Having previously owned cats, Elizabeth says that Gloria and Georgia are quite unique because of their highly protective nature. These two kitties immediately show up when any family member falls sick, ready to shower them with love and snuggles. Furthermore, if one of the kids is feeling down, they are quick to investigate and do everything possible to cheer them up.

    To top it off, these two cats are easy on the eyes—they are very beautiful and, as you can see in the accompanying photo, extremely photogenic. Seems like these two truly are the full package!

    — By: Vidya Srikanthan

  • Happy Tails: Ted (formerly AK)

    As Axl Rose once said: All we need is just a little patience. (Apologies to anyone under the age of 20.)

    But as it turns out, patience was the key in the bond formed between Kate Forest and her ACR adopted cat, Ted.

    Ted, formerly A.K., was a feral kitten, about six to eight weeks old, captured in the Kennedy and Sheppard area of Toronto. Kate took him in as a foster. Ted’s transition from life on the streets was not a pleasant one. After he spent the first two days under Kate’s couch, she decided it was time for a “faceoff.”

    Happy Tails: Ted aka AK

    “He didn’t eat, he didn’t use the litter, and I was getting very worried,” said Kate. “So I literally had a faceoff with him. I just lied there in his space, face-to-face, for about five hours. After that, he came around and was a lot more trusting of me.”

    Kate, originally from the U.K., had no intention of keeping a cat of her own. She was worried she may return home and not be able to take a feline friend with her. But as time went by, the tie between her and Ted became too strong to sever.

    “It took a lot for him to let his guard down and to trust,” said Kate. “He put that faith in me and he was happy and contented. It would have been a big upheaval for him to leave.”

    While Ted, now two years old, hasn’t seen his reticence towards strangers completely wash away, he’s doing much better.

    “He’s still a little nervy compared to other cats,” said Kate, “but as soon as he knows it’s safe he’ll come up to see them and greet them.”

    Happy Tails: Ted aka AK

    And part of making acquaintances is introducing guests to his favorite part of the house: Ted has developed an affinity for laying on top of the radiator in Kate’s washroom and when a visitor makes his or her first trip to the commode they often find Ted racing ahead to claim his perch and welcome them.

    “He’s the official bathroom greeter,” said Kate with a laugh. But even with his new social skills, Ted’s patient savior Kate will always be No. 1 in his heart. And vice versa.

    “He’s great,” said Kate. “He’s my best friend, my snuggle buddy.

    Happy Tails: Ted aka AK

    “I couldn’t imagine life without him.”

  • Happy Tails: Patches

    When Patches showed up in Kirsten Niles’ Facebook feed in January 2013, it was love at first sight.

    Happy Tail: Patches

    Niles had already adopted another cat, Nyx, a few months earlier. But as a resident at an obstetrics and gynecology clinic, she didn’t feel like she had enough free time to spend with her new furry friend.

    That’s when her friend Melissa posted on Facebook that she was fostering the aptly named Patches, whose white fur is covered with patterns of black and ginger.

    “She happened to post that she was fostering a cat for adoption and I saw the picture of her and I was like, ‘Ooh, I really like her.”

    Plus, according to the Facebook post, Patches was a cuddle fiend. Nyx, while friendly, is a little more standoffish, Niles said. “So that’s a nice balance of personalities.”

    While a bit skittish as she adjusted to her new home, Patches quickly lived up to her reputation. After a few days of hiding and refusing to come out, she relaxed and began to charm everyone with her affectionate demeanour.

    “Within a few days of having access to the apartment, she was trying to get up and cuddle,” Niles said. “Once she gets to know someone, she cuddles them. When my dad came to visit and was sitting on the couch, she cuddled with him. She’ll cuddle with anyone who’ll cuddle back.”

    She even won over the aloof Nyx. Worried they might not get along, Niles introduced them to each other gradually, first giving Patches her own room, then putting up a child gate that only Patches could jump over.

    Happy Tail: Patches

    “When I was home, I took down the gate entirely and now they cuddle each other, they clean each other and play,” she said. “I work long hours, so it’s that they have each other to kind of keep each other occupied.”

    Happy Tail: Patches

    And when Niles gets home after a long shift, she can snuggle up with Patches while Nyx hangs out nearby, completely unbothered.

    “She doesn’t get jealous when Patches is on my lap because she doesn’t want to be there,” Niles said. “She just wants to be in the same room. Nyx is the puppy dog of the two in that sense.”

    — by Sheena Goodyear

  • Happy Tails: Lucy

    It was love at first sight for Lucy and her forever mom Padra McIntosh—but before they met, this kitten had conquered numerous obstacles, all while looking adorably cute. Lucy and her brother Linus were best friends when they were rescued by ACR in 2012. Foster mom Catherine Wood took the pair in after they both tested positive for the feline leukemia virus (FeLV). “They both seemed to be in good health,” says Wood. “The only issue I noticed was that they both sneezed a lot.” Linus became extremely ill a few months later because of his FeLV, and sadly did not survive.

    Lucy, however, thrived. Wood calls her one of the most memorable foster cats she’s ever had. Lucy has cerebellar hypoplasia, or CH. This causes her to wobble when she walks. Wood remembers how this didn’t slow Lucy down at all. “She was very active and would run across the room to play with toys. Even though she wasn’t at all graceful like other cats, she had a particular sort of charm. I have a few friends who aren’t cat people, but when they met Lucy they were immediately enthralled.”

    Happy Tails: Lucy

    CH is a non-progressive, non-contagious neurological condition that results in balance problems. While some cats may only have a slightly impacted gait, others may have varying degrees of the condition. It’s important to remember that the cat isn’t sick or hurt; they’re simply uncoordinated. Unless a CH cat has other health issues, their life expectancy is the same as a cat without CH—in some cases, owners have said that their cat became more capable over time.

    “One of the great things about CH cats is that they don’t seem to know that they’re any different from other cats,” says McIntosh. Even though they may think they’re normal, depending on the severity of their condition, they may be somewhat limited in their abilies and learn how to do things differently.

    One such feat by Lucy was when she taught herself to conquer the couch in Wood’s home. After a lot of practice, she eventually mastered it and would then perch on the end and psyche herself up to jump off. “She’s always got this ‘go for it’ attitude,” laughs Wood.

    In November 2012, Padra McIntosh was browsing through Petfinder.com to pass the time, with no intention of adopting an animal. She stumbled across a picture of Lucy and her heart melted. McIntosh read in Lucy’s profile about her wobbliness and viewed the video—she instantly fell in love. “I researched cerebellar hypoplasia and then made arrangements to go and meet her,” says McIntosh. “Once I met Lucy, there was no doubt in my mind that she was supposed to be MY wobbly girl.” Lucy went home with her forever mom on January 2, 2013.

    Happy Tails: Lucy

    McIntosh is still as smitten with Lucy as she was on day one. “She is the sweetest cat I have ever met or owned,” she says. “She is resilient, affectionate, happy and spoiled.  She requires no extra special help for her CH, she eats and uses the litter box by herself and loves to play with toys or a game on my tablet. She has learned to jump up onto the bed and sofa and climbs anywhere else she wants to get onto, like our 4 foot-high cat tree.  She is just a regular kitty that happens to wobble.”

    It is not uncommon for FeLV tests to result in false positives, so McIntosh decided to re-test Lucy for the disease and it came back negative! Now that it was confirmed Lucy was FeLV free, McIntosh was able to bring three other CH cats into her home with symptoms ranging from mild to severe (including an adorable little guy who can’t walk).

    Happy Tails: Lucy

    “Because of Lucy and her siblings I was inspired to start a Facebook page to help bring awareness to CH,” she says. “I am also in the process of making a logo and products to help raise funds to help bring awareness to the condition. I believe this is why Lucy came into my life. I would recommend a CH kitty to anyone that is looking to adopt. You won’t regret it.”

    For more information on CH, please visit Life with CH Cats.

    — by Leah Morrison

     

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