MICHIGAN – When Hayes is given some paperwork to do, he tends to sit on it … for hours. Jessa falls asleep at work.
Both are cats who have feline leukemia virus, or FeLV, who are now living in the offices of the Humane Society of Huron Valley in Ann Arbor.
The organization decided just in June to turn its offices into a sanctuary for cats that test positive for FeLV, which is known as the friendly disease because cats catch it being friendly with each other. It is transmitted through saliva and is incurable. Kittens typically catch it and while many die by the age of 2, some live 10 to 15 years.
Cats who have the disease need to be kept separate from other cats to keep the disease from spreading. It is only spread cat-to-cat.
Wendy Welch, who is marketing director for the Huron Valley Humane Society, said it has been fun having the cats in the office.
They “rule the roost,” she stated as one of them pounced on her keyboard. “They basically hang out with us all day … these guys are very active.”
Since May, the shelter has been taking in dozens of cats from other shelters who are unable to house them and noticed an uptick in the number of cats with FeVL, which is one of the most common infectious diseases in cats. The disease weakens their immune system and often causes cancer.
According to the Huron Valley Humane Society, the majority of shelters simply euthanize cats with FeLV because they either do not understand the virus, lack the space to house them separately from other cats, or are not able find homes for them.
“But our community is different. We live among supportive, educated people who want us to think outside the box to save animals,” stated Tanya Hilgendorf, who is the shelter president and CEO.
While Huron Valley has now only two cats with FeLV, Hayes and Jessa, living in its offices, it has six others that are in foster homes or under observation to determine whether they have the disease. It expects more as it continues to accept in cats from other shelters.
Hayes and Jessa came to Huron Valley from a shelter which is located in Hillsdale. Hayes is 4 years old and weighs just under 7 pounds.
“He has this little black mouse toy that he carries around with him all day, and plays with it,” she stated.
Jessa is just 5 and weighs 8 pounds.
“Jessa is more of a sleeper,” Welch explained. “She will come out to play occasionally. She is a sweetie.”