Imagine a little grey kitten alone, wandering the Arizona desert, abandoned or possibly feral, hot and thirsty, hungry and thin, hunting crickets and lizards to survive, and all-the-while carrying a deadly, incurable virus — something he likely acquired from his mother’s milk or perhaps before he was even born. Then, to top it all off, he is hit by a car!
The odds seemed stacked against Simon right out of the gate, or so you might think. — But God had other plans for this little guy. (Click here to read Simon’s story.)
Despite his beginning circumstances, Simon is now happily living what most would consider to be a “normal” life. — To facilitate this, Simon wears a breakaway collar containing a unique Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID) tag. This tag grants him unrestricted and exclusive access to his own private litter box, food bowl and water bowl. Thanks to RFID technology and some diligent monitoring, Simon finally has the run of the house.
Simon has what is known as the Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) which is the most commonly diagnosed instigator of deadly disease in domestic cats. This insidious RNA retrovirus works by gradually inhibiting a cat’s immune system, predisposing it to infection, disease and cancer. According to estimates, less than 20 percent of infected cats survive more than three years of active infection. (Click here to learn more about FeLV.)
When I first met Simon, he was approximately six months old. The clinical symptoms of infection which he initially displayed were gingivitis, enlarged lymph nodes and chronic diarrhea. Antibiotics took care of his gums and lymph nodes, but the diarrhea persisted.
During his first year with me, he underwent two rounds of Interferon treatments in an attempt to boost his still-developing immune system. He also received regular doses of probiotic hidden in chicken baby food. And after about one year, his chronic diarrhea finally subsided.
Now here is the conundrum… Except for the occasional bout of diarrhea during times of stress, Simon, who is now over three-and-a-half years old, has exhibited no further clinical symptoms. And although Simon’s ELISA tests (including a special serum test that was performed) show a consistent weak-positive for the virus, his IFA lab tests have so far come back negative. Could this mean that Simon is somehow a carrier but not actively shedding the virus through his saliva and other bodily fluids?
To error on the side of caution, and yet still give Simon a chance at a normal life, he must be kept indoors at all times. He must not share a litter box, food bowl or water bowl with any other cat. My cats Peanut and Chester have been vaccinated. Any social grooming should be discouraged, and any toys that Simon puts in his mouth must be quarantined for at least three hours after they have dried (to be certain that any shed virus is dead). In short, any transfer of bodily fluids must be prevented — just in case.
In 2004 I built several pieces of cat furniture when I moved to Arizona including the ten-foot-wide, seven-foot-tall piece shown here. This sturdy piece was designed to house four extra-large litter boxes on the bottom.
When I moved back to Washington State earlier this year, I brought this piece with me and have recently converted the bottom level into two isolated RFID enclosures by simply adding four screened panels (two in the front, two in the back), a separating wall in the middle and a battery-powered RFID cat door at each end.
After researching the various controlled-access cat doors available, I opted for the Cat Mate Elite Selective which I was able to purchase for $65.00 each from petdoors.com. At first, Simon was a bit afraid of the loud hissing sound the door makes when it locks and unlocks. But he has since gotten quite used to it.
Cheers Simon! Here’s to your new-found freedom.