Tuesday, December 15, 2009


My plan was to grade at home today, and maybe if it's warm enough, go outside for a bit of exercise with a friend. But then I got an email, and there's a paper I need to sign because I'm the secretary for a committee of people who pretend to have power organization (C3PO). And it has to be signed today, though I didn't even know it existed and signed the other part, the part I knew about, last week sometime.

But because I'm responsible, and something good could happen for a colleague as a result, I'll head on in and sign.

A friend is moving in with another friend; I'm very happy for them. One of them has cats, the other a cat with FIV, so apparently the two can't be mixed or the healthy cats will get sick too. (I'm guessing you can't teach cats to keep their bodily fluids to themselves any more than you can teach them not to get on the kitchen counters when you're not in the room.) They've asked me to foster the FIV cat.

The thing is, I'm not a cat person. I'm perfectly happy to catsit for friends on occasion, and can give pills and stuff. I'm happy to get a little kitty therapy when I visit, and will pet the cat that comes by and seems to want to be petted when I visit.

I am a dog person. I know that dogs are dirty and disgusting beasts, but they stir my heart. Maybe it's my overblown ego, and the easy adoration of most dogs feeds it. I'll go out of my way to interact with dogs.

Part of me feels a bit bad saying no. But I don't want the responsibility of finding a cat sitter when I leave town or even the responsibility of cleaning a litter box daily. And while it's supposed to be short term ("fostering," not adopting), I worry that once the cat is in my house, the previous owner would feel a lot less pressure to find another home. The difficulty is that cat people already have a cat, and you can't just add an FIV cat to the household. So you have to shop around for a non-cat person who wants a cat. Even if you're really energetic about searching, it's tough, and the toughness is why they've asked me. All the cat people they know already have at least one cat, but here I am, catless.

I'm responsible enough to drive to campus to sign a form, but also responsible enough to now want to be responsible for a cat.


  1. I can see the problem -- although a bit of technology would reduce the litter box issue (the automatic litterbox is wonderful)-- and the "real" parents should stop by to check in on the cat...

    They should check with their vet and the local shelters. It seems to me that a family whose only cat has FIV might adopt another one.

  2. FWIW, we had a FeLV+ cat (feline leukemia - not the same as FIV, but similar) and he lived with our two normal/healthy cats for 7 years, with no ill effects to the healthy ones. If the healthy cats are vaccinated adults with good immune systems, they're very unlikely to get FIV even if they do exchange fluids. (In fact, FIV is harder to transmit than FeLV because you seem to need direct contact with the bloodstream to transmit FIV, whereas FeLV can be transmitted from saliva to mucosal tissues. All hail Wikipedia!) I know of other people who've done this, too.

    It's not something everyone is comfortable with, but really, chances are good the cats could live together with no ill effects.

    So, you know, you can tell them someone on the internet said so! ;-)

    (I don't know if we'd have a something-positive cat again, but not for fear of mixing; it's just sad to know they're not going to live as long as other cats.)

  3. You made the right call on not taking the cat. I think it would be pretty distressing for the poor thing to be fostered in one place and then moved on to someone else. I, too, thought vaccinations would make the infection risk minimal in otherwise-healthy cats.

  4. Beckett10:10 AM

    One of our cats had feline leukemia, which is very contagious. And he did eventually give it to our other cat at the time, despite the vaccinations. It was really hard emotionally to lose two cats to it; I'd never risk it again, personally. It's not easy having a sick cat, either; they say 'foster' but then who will be responsible for the vet bills (and yes there would be significant vet bills)? Who makes the final decision if it comes down to it on whether to have the kitty put down?

    Seems to me they haven't thought it through and are hoping to find someone else to lay the burden upon. Of course they don't want to put the kitty down, because they can live for a number of years with it, but it's quite a huge thing to dump on a poor unsuspecting good samaritan.

    I feel sorry for the cat, but I really do think you've made the right decision in not taking in a high needs cat, especially if you've never had cats before. It'd be a big heartbreaking responsibility.

  5. Thanks for the supportive comments, all. I appreciate it. I feel like a schmuck saying "no" in a way, still. And neither of my friends has responded to my email.

    I'm sure they'd have taken care of any vet bills, though, just to clarify. They just don't want to risk the other cats getting ill, too.