I MISS MY RUBY!!!!! For those of you who missed it yesterday, our Ruby Ruby Roo was spayed on Monday morning. The vet clinic kept her overnight and it's been a long, quiet 24 hours without her great big purr. Norman has done a great job of keeping my legs warm, but I'm looking forward to getting my little girl home.
I'd even let her cause trouble with the palm fronds again... if we had any left. What Ruby started, Lincoln Quincy-Adams finished ;-)
Ruby will be home by 8 a.m. on Tuesday. I'll update everyone when she arrives.
Ruby Roo is home and bouncing around the house like nothing happened. She's sporting a shaved belly and a wicked cool tummy tattoo too.
Holly Waterfall had some excellent questions for my research assistant/son Aidan in the comments of yesterday's blog post:
"Does the FIV ONLY pass through saliva or does it pass through other bodily fluids as well. Are transfusions and mating ways that it can be transmitted? Also, how long does the virus live outside the body i.e. do the cats need separate feeding areas, would they be prohibited from grooming each other, etc.?"
Well... we promised the facts (and nothing but the facts) but here is where facts and opinion cloud together and become a murky mess. The truth is that not even seasoned veterinarians agree on most of these issues, at least as far as we can tell through our research so far. Much of the evidence is anecdotal, as in someone knows someone who experienced living with an FIV+ cat and this is what happened to them. And, frustratingly, most of the anecdotal evidence contrasts with what our personal vets are telling us right now.
So, this is what we know (and what we know)....
Question #1: Can FIV be transmitted through contact with bodily fluids other than saliva.
Simple Answer #1: Yes. According to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, the greatest method of infection comes through aggressive bite wounds (where the saliva of an infected cat comes into immediate contact with the bloodstream of another cat). There have been reported incidents, though rare, of kittens who were infected by their mothers. This infection can occur during the birth process or by drinking contaminated mother's milk. The act of mating does not seem to pass the infection, except in that male cats will control female cats at that time by biting their necks (making the bite the method of transmission).
Question #2: How long does the virus live outside the body?
Simple Answer #2: The virus is not believed to survive outside the cat for more than a few hours.
Question #3: Do the cats need separate feeding areas?
Simple Answer #3: It is probably (notice how we're getting into less definite adverbs here) a good idea to give an FIV+ cat a separate feeding area since the primary method of transmission is saliva. A positive cat's saliva will mix with food and water in the bowls, which could possibly infect cats who share the feeding station.
And here's where it all gets murky, anecdotal, and hard for us to comprehend completely. So here is where we turn to our readers for answers. Let's call this an FIV Town Hall Meeting...
Our vet is admittedly inexperienced in treating FIV+ cats. She sees the occasional FIV+ cat who has been a house pet for years and has successfully helped the cat's family manage their immuno-suppressed conditions. She has little to no experience dealing with FIV+ mothers and litters of kittens born to those mothers. Some of her advice, while well meaning and founded on the scientific basics in veterinary textbooks, contradicts the advice of internet experts (those with the anecdotal evidence that makes me feel more hopeful in dealing with the virus). I've read a million stories of FIV+ cats living long lives, and living in households with other cats who have never been infected. I just don't know if I can trust that information.
I'm confused and muddled as to a lot of the specifics right now, other than how it is transmitted and why it's a good idea to send FIV+ cats to homes without other animals. And just so we're clear... My research shows that mixing FIV+ and FIV- cats is probably more detrimental to the FIV+ cat, exposing the immuno-suppressed cat to simple germs which can become a more serious illness for the positive cat rather than exposing negative cats to the virus to begin with.
Kelly's Question #1: Show of hands... How many of you have either fostered FIV+ kittens or know personally of someone who has, either through your shelter/rescue or through your vet's office?
Kelly's Question #2: Of those of you who have fostered FIV+ kittens, how many of you had their mothers in the home with them?
Kelly's Questions #3, 4, 5: We know that kittens of FIV+ mothers will routinely test positive in the early weeks of life because they are exposed to the mother's antibodies during gestation and through nursing. Do the kittens have to be completely weaned before the potentially false positive test result reverts to negative? If they do not have to be weaned, how old should they be? If they test positive, how long should we wait to test them again?
Kelly's Questions #6 and 7: How inaccurate are the snap tests? Is it worth our time and the rescue's money to retest Mama Madison in hopes of a different result?
Kelly's Questions #8, 9, 10: If the kittens test positive at 9 weeks, what are the likelihood that they will test negative on the retest? Do we keep them within the rescue for an additional 2-3 months for retesting in order to have a more accurate result at the time of adoption? Or do we put them up for adoption as FIV+ kittens with as much information and advice as we can offer to their forever families?
While Aidan and I are getting better at google searching the answers to our questions about FIV, we're by no means experts. We're feeling our way through the experience of this litter together with our vet and our rescue director. One way or another we'll have our answers soon. The kittens will visit the vet later this week and we'll acquire our first baseline of information. It helps to have you all here, whether you have the concrete answers I seek or not. I'm content to have my cute little lab cats in the front room to entertain me while I wait for answers. And I'm thrilled to have support in those moments when I'm worried or unsure of which step to take next.
And while we're waiting for answers... Here are some photos of some cute kittens:
... And to make it up for this less cute than average post, Aidan offers you a Zelda tongue