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FIV cats need special attention

An outbreak of feline immunodeficiency virus is striking fear among cat owners on Vancouver Island.

The virus, shorthanded FIV and sometimes called “feline AIDS” can often go undetected for years. It is slow-acting and weakens a cat’s immune system, making the animal susceptible to secondary infections.


Janet Reid

“RAPS has taken in many cats from the Island, particularly around the Nanaimo area, from rescue groups that trap, spay/neuter and release feral cats,” says Janet Reid, manager of RAPS Cat Sanctuary. “They are doing great work ‘snap testing’ cats to find out whether they have feline leukemia or FIV. But when a cat is FIV-positive or has leukemia, these groups have nowhere to put them to get the care they need. RAPS is Canada’s only cat sanctuary. We take in those cats to give them the care they need and so that they don’t go back into the wild and infect other cats.”

Cats with FIV can live well and comfortably for years in a stress-free environment if they receive treatment for the various secondary ailments that the weakened immune system invites. However, undetected, the virus can lead to serious illnesses resulting in death.

FIV, which does not threaten humans in any way, is generally passed between cats through deep bite wounds received during fights. The safest way to protect a pet from FIV is keep it indoors at all times or create an enclosed “catio” in which the cat can enjoy the outdoors but not interact closely with other cats.

The RAPS Cat Sanctuary is a very special place – with an extra special home for cats with FIV. Kept separated from other feline residents in their own comfortable trailer, the FIV cats receive the loving affection of humans and the medical care they need to live a good life for as long as they can.

Caring for these special cats is a testament to RAPS’ NO-KILL commitment. Because the virus results in health issues that require additional, sometimes costly medical attention, these cats are not usually chosen for adoption. In many jurisdictions, they would be euthanized. But RAPS’ NO-KILL commitment ensures they live their best lives surrounded by comfort and love.

When RAPS opens the new RAPS Regional Animal Hospital, these cats will be cared for by our in-agency veterinarians. This will reduce the per-animal medical costs and allow us to welcome more animals with FIV, saving that many more lives.

Everything RAPS does is possible because of the support from our animal-loving friends in the community. We depend on your financial and volunteer support to fund our work, including saving the lives of FIV-positive cats. Your support for the new RAPS Regional Animal Hospital will have exponential impacts, allowing us to save and improve more lives now and long into the future.

We are asking for your support. If just a fraction of RAPS members contribute $200, we could have the hospital open before the end of this year. Some can’t afford $200 … some will give more. But we are creating a model of community-supported, social enterprise NO-KILL animal care and we hope you will be a part of it.