Above: Trudy, mother of the A-Team
In January 2021, we were contacted by Kindred Kitties of Kenosha, Wisconsin—a group that rescues and finds homes for cats. They were hoping that Home for Life® could give Trudy and her kittens a safe landing. The little cat family looked healthy and adorable, but they had tested positive for Feline leukemia (FeLV), a viral disease that can spread to other cats through persistent contact, and is ultimately fatal. Though infected, cats with FeLV can live years without suffering or showing any symptoms of illness.
Trudy and her kittens were currently healthy. But they needed to be kept away from other cats who could catch the disease from them. At the same time, they deserved a good life and a safe home. They had the chance to enjoy many years of good health before becoming actually sick.
Infected cats do not need to be killed out of hand. As long as they are kept quarantined, they can live out their lives safely and comfortably, like any cat. At Home for Life,® we have had several FeLV+ cats enjoy years of good health with no apparent symptoms in spite of being positive for leukemia. Like any cat with nine lives, our FeLV+ cats and kittens often defy the odds, and embody the truth of the sentiment: “Life is short, but it is wide.” Whether they live months or years, these special kittens and cats seem to relish every day of their lives, making the most of every moment, glad to be alive.
It is so meaningful that this family of cats got to stay together, which is something special that sanctuaries can do, unlike organizations with a strong emphasis on adoption—where animals who are devoted friends or family members are often split up to be placed more easily. We were able to keep these close-knit family members together, which helped them transition to their new lives.
Of the 6 A-Team kittens Home for Life® took in from Kindred Kitties, only Alfred and Andrea as well as their mother Trudy are still alive. When kittens are born of a feline leukemia-positive mother, they often will not live past a year old. Sadly, Audrey, Andrew, Arnold, and Aaron all passed away due to complications related to their leukemia-positive status. Life is short but it's wide for leukemia-positive cats, who live every day to the fullest. The four kittens didn't have long lives but enjoyed every minute that they had, playing, running, and enjoying the camaraderie of each other and our other feline leukemia cats. They packed much joy and a lot of living in the time they had.
Leukemia-positive cats can live for many years in good health and, that's true of siblings Andrea and Alfred and their mom Trudy who are all thriving and happy. Even reflecting on the heartbreak of losing four kittens of the A-Team, we don't regret helping this little family. No one knew how long they would have and cherishing life is always worth the effort. Audrey, Aaron, Arnold, and Andrew live on through the validation of hope and life that their surviving sister and brother, Andrea and Alfred, represent.
Update Jan. 2023
To our great sorrow, we lost Andrea and then her brother Alfred, so now all six of the A-Team kittens have left us. It's true that many kittens born to a mother with leukemia are also born positive for the virus. In our experience caring for these kittens, they rarely live much longer than age 2 but over the years, we have had a couple who lived many more years beyond that including Osgood, whose mother and four brothers passed away, but who continued the flag for his family until he was nearly 12 years old! Trudy continues to live on, in great health, carrying the memory of her six tiger and white kittens who forever will be on Home for Life's A-Team.
Note: Enjoy some action shots of our feline leukemia kittens in the video below.