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Our organization “VZW Zwerfkat in Nood II” (Stray cat in Distress II), gives shelter to an average of 500 cats per year. Some of these strays are infected with the FIV-virus.
It can take quite some time to find a new home for the FIV-infected cats, mainly because of the many prejudices surrounding FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus or feline AIDS).
Needless to say, we never euthanise a cat simply because we don’t have enough room in our regular shelter (guest families take in strays until we find a loving home for them). However, the number of guest families that can take in a FIV-infected cat is limited. Therefore, in 2006 we decided to create a shelter especially for FIV-cats: Buddykat.
Apart from taking care of the FIV-infected cats, providing proper information about FIV is very important to us.
When a cat has been tested FIV-positive, it can raise a lot of fear, questions and doubt with the cat’s owner. Therefore a very important task of Buddykat’s is to talk to owners and to try to take away some of those fears. We advise and inform them about cats living with FIV.
In the past 7 years, we have given shelter to 83 FIV-infected cats.
Every FIV-positive cat that is rescued by our organisation finds a temporary home in Buddykat, our FIV-project. Additionally, we have a few guest families that are willing to take them in and care for them.
When a cat arrives at our shelter, we give them all the tender love and care we can. The cats that are in the final and most severe stage of the disease will be humanely euthanised. But every cat with even the slightest chance of survival will be given the opportunity to find a new home and a wonderful life!
Buddykat is a cosy, homely place, just like any ordinary home. There’s a bed, lots of baskets to sleep in, scratching posts and even a television with DVD-player! We play movies of fish tanks and the like.
It’s a sort of living room where, hopefully, they feel secure, happy and loved, because there is always a possibility that a cat will live in our shelter for several years. We have a separate room for severely ill cats, a small kitchen and, since 2007, we also have a fenced-off outdoor area.
Buddykat is meant to be an intermediate placement, not a final one.
The FIV-infected cats will stay in Buddykat until we find a loving owner for them. During their stay with Buddykat, they will be pampered by our dedicated carers.
Carers (all volunteers) visit twice a day to take care of the cats and spend some play and cuddle time with them. They take care of the hygiene in our shelter as well, such as emptying and cleaning the litter boxes. The volunteers also feed the cats. Where necessary, they give the cats their medications as well.
The cats get dry food twice daily. Additionally, they get some canned food, treats and cat milk.
The only difference between “normal” cats and our FIV-cats is that the latter get Interferon, an artificial immune system booster. Our cats are taken to a vet when they are ill, and we nurse them in our separate sickbay. Here, we have all the necessary medications and diet foods. Our carers have all the necessary knowledge to give the cats proper care, and they keep a logbook to communicate with each other about individual cats. Also, every cat has its own card with details about its habits, treatments, etc.