Trapped & Neutered FIV+ stray - now what to do... ?

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Ducky
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Trapped & Neutered FIV+ stray - now what to do... ?

Post by Ducky » Tue Apr 03, 2018 1:42 pm

Let's call him Humphrey.

Humphrey has been hanging around the immediate streets for two, maybe three years now. A neighbour thinks he was left behind when his owners moved. I have CatCam footage taken in my conservatory in late 2016, showing him sneaking in and eating Hugo's biscuits. At the time he looked in relatively good condition but as the years have passed he has started to look more dirty and dishevelled. Up until maybe 6 months ago I wasn't able to get anywhere near him. He doesn’t like other cats and seems terrified of people. Then he started coming into the garden and peering through the catflap. I would take some food out to him and at first he would wait until I’d gone before coming back for it; more recently he has let me fuss him a bit whilst he's eating. It was on one of these rare occasions that I noticed what poor condition his coat was in and also his tendency to dribble whilst eating.

I spoke with cats protection and they said they would get him looked at if I could get him to their usual vet practice. That opportunity finally arose last Wednesday morning when I saw him in the conservatory, having crept in the propped-open cat flap door. This was unusual; I’d only really ever seen him at night. He was soaked through and had blood on the fur around his neck. I brought him out some food and managed to lock the cat flap door to trap him. He was obviously afraid but didn't fight me or make a sound when I put him in the carrier. I took him to the vet and left him with a list of things to look at: his neck (which turned out to be a ruptured abscess), his teeth (two broken/infected and inflamed gums), his skin (scabby all over with with a virtually bald tummy) and - at CP’s request - his neutering. A couple of hours later the vet phoned, to say he had tested positive for FIV. They were waiting for a call back from CP but they expected to be told to put him to sleep on the basis that he was a stray and couldn’t be returned to the outdoors. I telephoned CP myself and this was confirmed. I had to make a snap decision right then: either let him be PTS or to agree to keep him inside. My emotions got the better of me and I made that promise. They went ahead with his neutering and his dental work, and they cleaned out his abscess and gave him an antibiotic jab. I collected him that evening and put him in my spare room with his food, a litter box, a scratch tree and a heated bed. He has been there since, save for a check-up at the vets on Saturday, when he had his abscess cleaned out again and a Stronghold Plus dropper for his ticks (loads of tiny ones). Since then, he is been eating well and using his litter tray. He has 3.5 of Metacam with his breakfast, which he eats without any fuss. His poops are a bit patty and stinky but I’m told this could be the antibiotics. He is still quite wary of me, I have to approach him slowly, and he won’t leave the window ledge, only to eat and poop. I have three other cats but I’m keeping them well away for everyone’s sake. I’m still finding ticks (seemingly alive) but I’ve dusted a little diatomaceaous earth into his fur (where he’ll let me) and his bedding to help kill off any heebie jeebies that are hanging on.

He’s not a happy bunny. It’s as though he’s forgotten how to be a cat. He never purrs, he never leans in for fuss; I rarely see him groom or wash, and the only noise I've heard him make is a growl, when I’ve got a bit too close to his tummy or his paws. I’m sure he’d be straight out the door as soon as I open it. His abscess is a big hole on the side of his neck which will take, I expect, another week or two to close up, so he must stay inside for at least another couple of weeks. Beyond that, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m certain he won’t settle here with other cats around, two of which are neutered but boisterous males, and I don’t want to take any chances that they fight and this virus spreads to them. I have done much reading up on the subject and there seems to be a strong consensus that it is acceptable to release FIV+ strays on a number of arguments, one of which is that to confine a cat that is not suited to domestic living will ultimately do it more harm than good. There is similar guidance on this very site. I don’t see many strays in this area, although there are quite a few domestic cats which patrol the gardens. Humphrey is not a youngster; I’d place him at least at 10/12 years, if not older. He does not appear to be territorial, he runs away at the sight of my lot and tends to only show up at night when all is quiet. He’s like an old soldier just trying to get by, his only aim being survival. I don’t know where he sleeps but I have a wind/rain-proof den in the garden, decked out with a heat-reflective mat and warm blankets, and I have seen him use this many times.

I will keep him in until his abscess is healed at the very least. He is not underweight; he was 4.2kg on Saturday and he eats well. I worry about how I can ensure he has access to food and clean water. Next door’s cats are typical scroungers and they’ll hoover up anything that I leave out for him. I’m considering buying him a microchip feeder, and popping a collar and RFID tag on him, and teaching him to eat from it before he is released. They are only for indoor use but I can have a shelter of sorts built for him to come and eat. He will be free to return here to eat and sleep as he wishes. If I can teach him to use the catflap into the conservatory, even better; I can make sure there is food, water and comfy bedding, although this seems a bit of a task right now.

If I return to CP for advice, they will undoubtedly have him PTS. I don’t wish to betray their trust, but I don’t know if I can keep my promise to confine him to the indoors. Where there’s life, there’s hope, and all I wanted was to give him a second chance. I hate the nagging feeling that I may have made a mistake and should have allowed them to do the sensible thing by all concerned.

There will come a time when I can do no more to improve his quality of life. When that time comes, and he is well enough, should I give him back his freedom?

Any and all advice gratefully accepted, thank you.

D.
Last edited by Ducky on Tue Apr 03, 2018 3:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Trapped & Neutered FIV+ stray - now what to do... ?

Post by Kay » Tue Apr 03, 2018 3:06 pm

I think you've done splendidly by this lucky boy, and whatever you decide going forward he can only be the better from having found you

two things occur to me - firstly his testosterone levels will continue to drop over the next few weeks, so I think keeping him inside at least until the abscess is healed will see a reduction in his fighting tendencies, and likelihood of passing on FIV

secondly, what exactly constitutes outdoors? if he lives in your garden, with the shelter and food you provide, as a neutered cat, and does not roam beyond it, I can't see he is threat to other cats, and is certainly less of a threat than before he saw a vet - if your conscience troubles you then perhaps over time you could make donations to CP to cover the cost of the treatment, as it seems to me the only ethical consideration is the fact they paid for him because of your promise, and would only have paid for euthanasia if you had not promised

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Re: Trapped & Neutered FIV+ stray - now what to do... ?

Post by bobbys girl » Tue Apr 03, 2018 4:29 pm

I agree with Kay, once his testosterone levels drop and he realises he is on to a good thing, he will probably not want to wander very far. You are right though to make sure the abscess has healed before you do anything else. Did the vet give him a long term AB? Bob was given one for his sore toe and it seems to have worked a treat. He is back out trotting around the garden with all the others.

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Re: Trapped & Neutered FIV+ stray - now what to do... ?

Post by booktigger » Tue Apr 03, 2018 6:12 pm

Ironically I've just read a Celia Hammond Facebook post about this! Good on you for giving him a chance. You might find that as he's older, he might actually appreciate the warmth and security - a true feral would not be just sitting on the windowsill, they are very good escape artists and normally lash out in fear. I know you think not purring etc means he's not happy but it's more likely a reaction to the infection.

ETA, if they got the result the same day, it was a snap test which can show a false positive, so when he goes for a check up, I'd ask for the more reliable test (sorry, forgot it's name!) to be done

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Re: Trapped & Neutered FIV+ stray - now what to do... ?

Post by Ducky » Tue Apr 03, 2018 9:30 pm

Thanks heaps for this feedback. I was having a crisis of self-doubt this morning.

Kay: I wondered if he'd been neutered too late for it to make much of a difference but this gives me hope. I have a small'ish square garden (typical end of terrace) with a bit of grass and a few cat dens here and there and a hole in the gate for mine to come and go. It's not a secure setup though; I wouldn't be able to keep him contained, certainly not without keeping my other three contained and that would drive them (and me!) insane. And yes, it is without question that I will pay CP back for this and I've promised them so. I wouldn't have turned to them at all only for initial advice; if it was down to me to pay I would have, even though I'm between jobs at the moment and have had to put a temporary hold on my donations. As soon as I'm back on the gravy train I'll see them right. They do a lot of good work locally and this would have cost them a pretty penny.

Bobbys Girl: He had a long-lasting (two weeks?) antibiotic jab, yes. I am due to take him back again on the 10th (a week today) when it 'expires' to see how his abscess is healing. Ideally I would like to see it scab over and see him leave it alone for a good while before he escapes.

Booktigger: It did cross my mind that he might well do an about turn and run back inside if I opened the door! If he does, so be it. He is getting a wee bit more snappy, especially if I stray too far with the brush or try to touch his paws, so he still has a bit of spirit left in him. I just hope it lasts the duration of his confinement in my spare bedroom.

Whatever I do, I know it won't end there and I'm expecting him to need help again at some point. I get the feeling I might be his only friend (although he probably wouldn't use that word!) and I can't bear the thought of him struggling.

I'm just about to order him a microchip feeder as part of the big freedom mission. I really should have taken out shares in SureFlap years ago... two cat flaps, two pet doors and now a £70 glorified cat bowl!


Am I allowed pics?

Taken in January: https://www.dropbox.com/s/1kl498ubinb9w ... 9.jpg?dl=0

After vet treatment: https://www.dropbox.com/s/dusku60q1xbnq ... 4.jpg?dl=0

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Re: Trapped & Neutered FIV+ stray - now what to do... ?

Post by Lilith » Wed Apr 04, 2018 12:23 am

Oh wow, what a handsome big ruffian and good on you!

15 years ago I had a similar experience with a ginger feral lad (though don't think he was FIV+, never got him tested) Just been posting about him on another thread. He was VERY hostile but he was hungry, and he had an abscess too, and his ears were red raw, thought he'd never speak to me again after I got him neutered - and then he moved in within the week and was a total ... well, pussycat.

I reckon Humphrey has fallen on his paws and will appreciate this - he's lucky to have you :D

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Re: Trapped & Neutered FIV+ stray - now what to do... ?

Post by booktigger » Wed Apr 04, 2018 6:54 am

The fact you can get close with a brush is a really positive sign, I've been fostering 2 semi ferals since Sept and the mum is still drawing blood! You can tell he's a late neutered too with that head bless him

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Re: Trapped & Neutered FIV+ stray - an update...

Post by Ducky » Sat Apr 07, 2018 7:56 pm

Hi Ladies,

Well... we have a little progress to report. The feeder arrived on Tuesday and I set it up straight away. I started with it set on 'open only' and before the end of the day, he was eating biscuits out of it \o/ On Thursday I got him a soft-touch safety collar for his RFID tag (which will open the feeder when he approaches it) and popped it on him, to very little protest. I set the feeder door to close by about an inch, and at some point overnight he had eaten the biscuits that I left in the feeder bowl. I've watched the CatCam replay and yes, it did startle him briefly, but hunger soon overrode it!

Over the last few days he's stopped jumping up and standing to attention when I enter the room. I'm not sure if that's a good thing (that he feels more comfortable and assured) or a bad thing (is he depressed? ...has he given up?) but I visit him as often as I can and given him a bit of fuss and some meaningless chat. I give him a little brush every day too. He seems to tolerate this. He has a few old puncture wounds and scratches from fights, which have scabbed over and - thankfully - not abscessed. His tummy is pretty bald in places but I read that this may be linked to the FIV?

I think all his heebie jeebies have died or left the building; I haven't found any on him for a few days now. He still sleeps on the window ledge all day, getting up to eat and use his toilet. I can sometimes hear him crying out, usually out the window, either at night or early in the morning. It's a very sad sound; the only one I've ever heard from him. Big Hugo has been in to see him; had a sniff around... they made eye contact, then Hugo left. Humphrey is used to seeing Hugo around and they don't bother each other. Dottie has been leaving my little teddy bears outside his door. I won't let her in though, she's insane... the poor guy will want to jump out the window. He's become a bit of a celebrity in the Ducky camp. I've let my brother (our family Dr Doolittle) and my two calmest, gentlest friends go in to see him briefly. He is still a bit wide-eyed with strangers but he will hopefully learn something from them just talking quietly to him and giving him a bit of headfuss and then leaving again. I'd hate for him to leave here as terrified as he was when he came. He needs to be confident enough to come back for help if he needs to.

Tonight, the Sir Humphrey Freedom Project entered Phase Two: with the feeder door half closed. I have just watched him go up for a snack and wait for the feeder door to open \o/ I'll leave it like this for a few days, and then choose my moment to close it a bit more or even fully. If he still feeds from it, then we have a result. It means that when he is ready to return to the great outdoors, I can make food available for him and not worry about it being liberated by next door's scavengers.

He has a trip to the vet on Tuesday to have his abscess checked. It's healing nicely. He did claw a bit of scab off it a few days ago but it's dried up again now. If they give him the all-clear, then it's just a matter of fattening him up a bit more and, I guess, taking him to the garden one evening to see what he does. Any ideas as to how I can make that transitional period as easy as possible would be very welcome. At first, I will prop the conservatory catflap open so that he can come in to sleep. I will scan his RFID tag too so that it will open for him, although I don't think he knows how to use catflaps... Maybe I should pass him through a couple of times to show him how it works.

Taken today: https://www.dropbox.com/s/o4y9gzq04jmo5 ... 1.jpg?dl=0

Edited to add: I found a little puddle against the skirting board this evening... underneath a freshly wallpapered wall :? New carpet was due to be fitted last Tuesday but I postponed it because of our unexpected guest. It's now being done on Thursday... eek...!

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Re: Trapped & Neutered FIV+ stray - now what to do... ?

Post by booktigger » Sun Apr 08, 2018 9:38 am

Hes sounding a lot less feral, I've known a lot of domestic Cats who refuse collars and brushing! mine draws blood if you brush her! The bald belly could be a flea allergy. I'd play it by ear after his vet visut, I've been fostering for nearly 14 years and he certainly doesn't sound desperate to get out of that room, so I'd just leave that door open and see what he does

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Re: Trapped & Neutered FIV+ stray - now what to do... ?

Post by Lilith » Sun Apr 08, 2018 4:48 pm

Ah. Personally I'd postpone the carpet even longer ... one of my lads who moved in as a feral tom took months to learn that a skirting board was NOT the same as a car hubcap ... with gentle training and a lot of praise, he did get there in the end though.

Love to the lad :)

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Re: Trapped & Neutered FIV+ stray - now what to do... ?

Post by Ducky » Sun Apr 08, 2018 10:06 pm

Tonight, I actually saw him play for the first time (with a stinky Valerian pillow from Zooplus... my 'if all else fails'!!!).And he came up for a bit of fuss, albeit briefly.

He's a bit stiff in his gait and it takes him a few goes to get comfy in his bed. I buy Yumove for my brother's cat, she being 16 and a bit arthritic. It seems to help her, so I'm going to beg a few capsules from him and try it in Humphrey's food. If he'll eat it, I'll give him a couple of doses for a week or so and see how we go, that's if he stays that long! I found another puddle against the skirting board today. I guess that's his way of telling me he's fed up.

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Re: Trapped & Neutered FIV+ stray - now what to do... ?

Post by Lilith » Tue Apr 10, 2018 7:00 am

Aww bless him ... and the bad lad too ... Hey I must be really out of it (blame being absorbed in another project at present lol) should have said, it was that same ginger tom who I had to train, and of course falling testosterone levels had a lot to do with training my ASBO ... they do improve. He also lost his great broad tomcat face and ended up with elegant cheekbones.

Yumove is wonderful, but expensive. The best value I've come across is greenlipped mussel powder from Zooplus, you can buy a tub of it loose - http://www.zooplus.co.uk/shop/dogs/dog_ ... nts/532910

Pricey but if you work out the value, much cheaper in the long run, also if you can share it with someone like your brother ... It has exactly the same effect as Yumove, being chondroitin, it stinks of fish but once you've worked out the dosage the cats don't seem to mind it mixed in with their food - I've had good results with my elderly ones.

Fusses to the mighty Humphrey :D

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Re: Trapped & Neutered FIV+ stray - now what to do... ?

Post by Ducky » Tue Apr 10, 2018 3:51 pm

Well, we've had our last check-up at the vets and they're pleased. He's put on another 200g (now at 4.4kg) and his abscess is closing up nicely. He was very well-behaved - no hissing or growling. Unfortunately his secondary blood test has confirmed his FIV+ status, but I was prepared for that outcome. They vet doesn't need to see us again unless we have any issues.

The vet has warned about him sharing bowls etc with my other cats, but all of the respectable sources of advice that I've read these last few weeks has rubbished this risk, on the basis that the virus has a very short lifespan (a matter of seconds) outside of the body. Nonetheless I need to be guarded against him having fisticuffs with the others else I'll have an even bigger problem on my hands.

We're still having pee warfare; I found another puddle this morning. I can't postpone the carpet fitting any longer, but I've bought some PVC groundsheets to put down until I can have the room back.

I didn't mention to the vet my thoughts about releasing him again, but I think it is still the best thing for him. The local rescue/rehoming centre where I volunteer on Sundays has offered to try and rehome him, but I see first-hand the difficulties that they have rehoming even clean, housetrained, sociable, cats... let alone FIV+ cats which hate everyone and cannot ever be let out. He'll be stuck in a cattery pen for god-knows-how-long. It's one of the better rescues out there for sure, but he'll have no freedom, and no peace from people coming and going and the noise of barking dogs. I don't think this would do him any good at all.

We are promised better weather next week so I may look at allowing him outside one evening then. I'll give him a few goes with the outer catflap first; hopefully he'll remember what to do if he comes back, but I'll probably prop it open for a while yet (that's what I've been doing for the last three months anyway, so that he had somewhere to eat and sleep). Then I'll just have to play it by ear.

Lilith: thanks for that link. I've shown it to my brother and we're going to get some ordered and try it. I can get Yumove for ~£10 for 60 which isn't bad but if this goes further and avoids all the packaging waste too, I'm all for it. I have a couple of Yumove capsules to try in his supper. Here's hoping.

They are a worry aren't they...

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Re: Trapped & Neutered FIV+ stray - now what to do... ?

Post by bobbys girl » Tue Apr 10, 2018 4:18 pm

It's all sounding very promising, that's great! :D ?

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Re: Trapped & Neutered FIV+ stray - now what to do... ?

Post by booktigger » Tue Apr 10, 2018 5:53 pm

I'm surprised with his second FIV test, the accurate one needs to be sent to an external lab so takes time to come back. He honestly doesn't sound like a cat who hates everyone if you can brush and stroke him after such a short space of time. The weeing could subside once his hormones have died down, which can take 6 weeks

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Re: Trapped & Neutered FIV+ stray - now what to do... ?

Post by Ducky » Fri Apr 13, 2018 7:47 pm

Hello Ladies,

Well, Humphrey's gone. He'd been getting more and more restless over the last few days, crying out and scratching at the bedroom door at night. He was in a big crate in my bedroom for a couple of hours yesterday when the carpet went down but he was impeccably behaved. I put some polythene sheeting down before I put him back in there just in case of any more pee warfare. When I took his breakfast in to him this morning I found a load of holes that he'd torn in it and peed through! :shock: :?

Well I certainly got that message loud and clear! I decided that I'd probably offer him his freedom as soon as temperatures hit double figures. Tonight, after he'd had a snack and gone back to his bed, I opened the bedroom window a bit. He seemed very interested in the smells coming in through the gap and tried to open it and climb out. Rather than have him land on the conservatory roof (!) I carried him downstairs (his little heart was beating like mad under my hand!) and set him down in the conservatory. He obviously recognised where he was because as soon as I opened the door, he strode out into the garden. Since then, he's been back and forth over the gardens, marking all the fence posts (!) and looking like he was on something of a mission. The last I saw of him, he was heading out the hole in the gate, where he first emerged from two weeks ago.

I'm missing him a bit already. He has heaps of character for a cat who has all but forgotten how to be a cat! He'd only just about started to lean in for a bit of fuss and play with his toys. He's in fairly good shape now too. His abscess is all dry and the scab is much, much smaller than the original wound. His socks look white again and his coat is shining and clean. He's had a good feed and was 4.6kg at last weigh-in. I've propped the conservatory catflap door open so he can get back in and I've put his bed on the sofa and the feeder in there too. I've weighed the bowl + food so I'll know if he's coming back to eat. I forgot to scan his tag in the chip reader before I let him out though - b*gg*r :( Maybe I'll get another chance, if so, I can see about teaching him how to use it.

Booktigger: I did think it was back a bit soon... although he had the second test on the afternoon that I took him in two weeks ago. I was a bit disappointed; if he was clear it would have opened up other possibilities for him, but I think this is the best I can do for him for now. We're due some lovely weather next week and it just seemed like the best time for him to acclimatise to the great outdoors again. I'll be watching out for him; I'll rig up the CatCam in the conservatory again and it'll take snapshots of whoever visits. I hope to be back with an update!

Thank you all for such really helpful support and guidance. I was more than a little bit lost, two weeks ago. He wasn't even my cat but seeing him given the death sentence was really awful; I just couldn't do it. It took me back to my dear old Kitty being diagnosed with heart failure eighteen months ago after nine years of being my little sweetheart and being told that there was nothing they could do for her. It was nice, this time, to have some leverage over the situation, and to decide that this wasn't how his story was going to end.

Thank you x

*sniff*

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Re: Trapped & Neutered FIV+ stray - now what to do... ?

Post by bobbys girl » Fri Apr 13, 2018 8:22 pm

Aw, that's lovely. I don't think you have seen the last of him though! :D He knows where he will be welcome and will be back. It's surprising how soon you become attached isn't it? You did a great job for a his little fella.

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