When Jessica Huxmann, president of the Humane Society of Adams County Board of Directors, posted a young tabby cat on the Humane Society’s Facebook on Aug. 28, she did not expect an international response.
According to the post, the cat named Dove had been at the Humane Society since February — Aug. 29 marked his 200th day at the shelter.
“We were blown away by the response we got. We’ve never had a post get this much attention,” Huxmann said. “I can only speculate, but I think one of the things that struck people was that he had been at the shelter for over 200 days. Maybe it also had to do with quarantine. We’re all very cognizant of what it’s like to be stuck for multiple days at a time, so many people were anthropomorphizing what it was like for him because that’s how we empathize — he’s stuck in a cage at a shelter; we’re stuck at home with this quarantine, nobody can go anywhere.”
As of Tuesday, Huxmann said the post had reached nearly 500,000 people after it was shared to several cat-centric Facebook groups, including “Please tell this cat I love them,” a Facebook group with almost 28,000 members. Facebook users from as far as Australia commented on the post to say they wished they could adopt Dove.
Huxmann said at least 30 to 50 people applied to adopt Dove after she posted about him on the Humane Society’s Facebook page.
She told The Times-Gazette that she was surprised by the response, especially because Dove has feline immunodeficiency virus, or FIV, a lifelong infection that targets a cat’s immune system.
However, FIV is not a “death sentence,” something Huxmann has witnessed firsthand after, in the early 2000s, she and her family adopted a cat who later tested positive for FIV.
“I remember being devastated when I got the news from the vet. He said, ‘Your cat has tested positive for the feline immunodeficiency virus,’ and I just broke down in the clinic office because I thought it was a death sentence,” Huxmann said. “They looked at me funny and said, ‘Why are you upset? This is OK. This isn’t a death sentence.’ [The vet] said, ‘We can manage this.’”
Though the vet also warned Huxmann that her cat Benji may only live to the age of 5, Huxmann said Benji is doing well today at the age of 18 and lives the life of a typical housecat.
“He did fine for years before he needed to be on antibiotics,” Huxmann said. “We don’t have him on antibiotics right now — I think his last round of antibiotics was a few months ago. We have a standing order with our vet. We just call him up and say, ‘Benji’s sneezing again,’ and they get the medicine ready, and we go pick it up. Usually, he has to be on it for a little longer than a normal round of antibiotics, and we have to switch antibiotics periodically because he will become immune because we use them so often.”
Huxmann and her family also had three other FIV-negative cats at the time, who have since passed away from other ailments but never contracted FIV.
In fact, according to a recent article in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, FIV-positive cats typically do not transmit FIV to FIV-negative cats in the same household, so long as they do not fight. The article warned that there is still “a certain degree of risk,” even if a household’s cats do not fight, though FIV is mainly transmitted through bite wounds and FIV-infected white blood cells.
The article also noted that an FIV-positive cat’s lifespan can vary but is similar to that of an FIV-negative cat.
Despite the reality of FIV, Huxmann said there is a stigma against FIV-positive cats, something she has seen personally in Adams County.
“Whenever we have cats with FIV, they take forever to get adopted,” Huxmann said. “It’s hard enough to get a cat a home. Any that has FIV shows up with a ‘special needs’ symbol on our Petfinder page, and people, I think, glaze over that. They don’t want a cat that’s going to have special needs. They just go on to the next animal.”
Huxmann said Adams County residents often avoid adopting FIV-positive cats as they confuse FIV with feline leukemia virus, or FeLV, which is common in Adams County.
However, because of a Facebook post, two FIV-positive former stray cats from Adams County were able to find a home.
As of Tuesday, Huxmann said Dove had been adopted and was living with his new family in Euclid, a suburb of Cleveland — but Dove did not make the four-hour journey alone.
“We brought the family in with Dove, and he was standoffish — he was trying to hide underneath the desks and kind of shying away from them when they would try to touch him. And then they brought Tiptoe in,” Huxmann said.
Tiptoe is a black and white cat whom Huxmann believes is Dove’s brother as the two came to the shelter as strays together. Tiptoe also has FIV.
By the time the family met Dove, he and Tiptoe had not seen each other in months, Huxmann said. The two were unable to share a cage together as the Humane Society’s cages could only accommodate one full-grown cat.
Huxmann said Dove and Tiptoe were also unable to roam with other cats in the cat room to ensure they could not engage in — and were not subjected to — “risky behaviors,” such as fighting or breeding, that could transmit FIV to FIV-negative cats.
“This was the first time that Tiptoe and Dove had been together in several months,” Huxmann said. “Tiptoe is a very laid-back cat; Dove is shy at first — but with Tiptoe’s kind of like [Dove’s] security blanket. That seems to be what made the decision final for the family: to see the two of them together, to know that Dove was much more comfortable having this other cat around, that the other cat was personable too. All of those things combined led them to decide to adopt them both.”
Though Dove and Tiptoe’s new family wished to remain anonymous, Huxmann said they lost a cat to cancer in March and did not feel ready to adopt again until they saw Dove’s story on Facebook. The family has since shared pictures of Dove and Tiptoe cuddling together in their new home with Huxmann and others at the Humane Society.
As of Tuesday, the Human Society has at least one FIV-positive cat named Mama White still available for adoption. Mama White came to the society with a litter of kittens, which tested negative for FIV, in June. Mama White’s adoption fee is fully sponsored, meaning she can be adopted for free with an approved application.
Huxmann added that the Humane Society of Adams County could use community support. It was unable to hold its typical fundraisers this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Huxmann said the organization is struggling. To donate to the 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, visit www.adamscountyanimals.org/donate.
The society is also seeking to partner with nearby veterinarians since the Rascal Clinic, a mobile clinic that offers spaying and neutering services, will no longer make the trip to the Adams County shelter. Huxmann said the county’s only veterinarian is retiring, which will leave many Adams County residents without veterinary services.
The Humane Society of Adams County is located at 11481 SR 41 in West Union. Due to COVID-19 concerns, the society is open by appointment only. To schedule an appointment, email the society at [email protected]
For more information, visit the society www.adamscountyanimals.org, or like or follow the “Humane Society of Adams County, Inc.” Facebook page.
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.