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One Life To Live

Cats with feline leukemia, like Mitzi, often don't have a normal life span but they deserve to have a loving home.

Not all cats have nine lives.

For the 2 to 3 percent percent of cats living in the United States who have the feline leukemia virus their lifespan is often significantly shorter than the average indoor housecat, who can live to be a teenager.

Mitzi, a rescued cat at LifeLine Animal Project, has FeLV. She's a beautiful calico with medium-length hair and mesmerizing green eyes who loves nothing better than being held.

The calm and gentle year-old cat was rescued along with her two kittens, both of whom died shortly after being brought to LifeLine. Infected kittens usually will not live very long. Adult cats with FeLV can sometimes stay "stuck" in the first stage of the disease and not move to the second stage for years or in very rare occasions, at all.

Mitzi shows no outward signs of being ill, but she is kept in a cage by herself in LifeLine's isolation room and not permitted in the population of cats in LifeLine's cage-free kitty motel. She loves it when humans visit her, and is always ready to cuddle.

"She gives the best kitty hugs!" said Shannon Dunagan, the receptionist at LifeLine's Decatur-area spay and neuter clinic.

"When you hold her she will put her paws around your neck and purr," Dunagan continued.

"Mitzi is certainly super sweet," said Mickie Blair, LifeLine's cat adoption counselor, "She deserves to have a home. She deserves to be adopted or have a person foster her, long term. There are a lot of people out there who have FeLV cats or have had them."

FeLV, a retrovirus, is not widespread, although incidents are higher in high risk groups: those already ill, very young and cats who live outdoors. Transmisson can take place from a mother cat to kittens, through bite wounds and when cats mutually groom each other.

It cannot be caught by humans or dogs and the virus itself can only survive a very short time outside of a cat's body - a few hours at most.

There is a preventative vaccine for felines who do not already have the virus. It's generally considered about 60 percent effective.

Mitzi doesn't know she has a disease and you can't tell by looking at her or how she acts. In all other ways she's just about the perfect cat - not destructive, very affectionate, sweet-natured and simply beautiful to watch.

She can be adopted to or fostered in any home without any other cats or with cats who also have the disease. She can live in a home with dogs who are cat friendly.

There's no Make A Wish Foundation for homeless cats to have their fondest hope granted while they are here on earth - to have a home of their own, their own bed and toys, and someone to love. But the staff and volunteers at LifeLine never give up trying to find the right home for all the animals they rescue.

"Anyone who would be willing to foster this great kitty long-term would be a true angel and would be doing a wonderful, humane thing," said Blair, "LifeLine would supply all medical care and would be there to provide education and moral support."

With all the healthy dogs and cats waiting for adoption at animal shelters, it's daunting to think of the lowered chances that a cat with leukemia like Mitzi would face in being chosen for a new home. But that doesn't mean she doesn't deserve one. She does.

To meet Mitzi or inquire about bringing her home with you, contact mblair@lifelineanimal.org

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