Olivia: Or Loving A Cat With FeLeuk

I volunteer with a local cat rescue. In addition to fostering cats, I spend Fridays at the rescue office helping folks adopt, scooping poop, and making sure all these lovely four legged furballs are fed and watered and loved on.

My rescue currently has a cat in the office named Olivia. Olivia is the sweetest, friendliest, most affectionate cat I’ve ever met. She’s often riding on my shoulders while I clean her room, and I often spend extra time just sitting there with her sleeping in my arms. Trying to leave the room is heartbreaking — Olivia hates being alone, but she has to be.

Olivia has Feline Leukemia. It’s a highly contagious infectious disease that doesn’t affect humans, but can lead to death within three years in about 85% of infected cats.

Initially cats show no signs. They seem healthy and fine, but as the disease progresses, they eventually lose their appetite, lose weight, develop a persistent fever and pale gums.

It makes cats like Olivia, who are so loving, so playful, and so kind virtually unadoptable. They can only go to single cat homes. They can only go to families who understand that these cats likely won’t survive the 15-20 years your average pet cat does.

People who adopt FeLeuk cats are rare. They’re an exceptional breed of humans who cares more about the cat’s quality of life than they do. They adopt knowing they may only have a few years with their new buddy, but committed to making sure that those few years are going to be the best years of that cat’s life. People who adopt FeLeuk cats do it knowing the heartbreak, and the difficult decision they’re going to one day have to make, and deciding that it’s worth it, so that cats like Olivia can have a few years of stretching out in sunbeams, of riding shoulders, of purrs and pats and snuggles.

Our rescue doesn’t adopt out FeLeuk cats lightly. They can only go to homes that don’t currently have any cats that are negative for FeLeuk, to adopters who understand the very serious reality of adopting a cat who is positive.

Olivia is going to be at the rescue for a while, I’m sure. And I’m going to be there every Friday loving on her until she finds her home.

If you would like to adopt Olivia or another special needs cat or dog in the Kalamazoo, MI area, check out Kalamazoo Animal Rescue’s Special Needs Pets adoption page. You can also donate to the rescue’s continuing costs by clicking here

On Community

I’ve had a pretty rough couple of weeks lately. Things have been exceptionally difficult with expense after expense piling up, friendships ending, responsibilities overtaking me, and the loss of both a foster cat, and one of my pets.

It’s been overwhelming, but I’ve been okay. My community has stepped in to back me up wherever it can.

My friend Malorie has been helping me pick my youngest, Bug, up from school. Andy leaves work on his lunch break to drive Bug to his preschool class, and makes sure I have a key to his house so I can find somewhere quiet to catch up on work. Nathan makes me a lunch and leaves it in the fridge so I don’t have to spend time making my own. Mara drove an hour with her father in law to help me take care of some roommate business. Julia went and picked up my cat’s ashes so that I wouldn’t have to.

Multiple friends send me reassuring messages and reminders to eat and stay hydrated throughout the day.

I haven’t had community for most of my life, and having one now is a genuine feeling of ease and comfort. I don’t have to worry as much. I can help my friends, and they can help me. We weren’t built to live solitary lives, we were built to love, and to work and fight together to survive.

We can’t survive without a community, and the single most powerful act of compassion we have at our disposal is our willingness to risk everything to keep each other afloat. In a society where we often find ourselves subjugated, alone, and struggling, our most powerful tool is our willingness to love each other.