Ever have a Crazy-Making Thing make you grateful?
Ever have a Crazy-Making Thing make you stop and realize: Waitasecond. This Crazy-Making Thing should have happened to me approximately 1,000 times every week since birth, and this is the first time. Which means I’ve been spared approximately 1,664,000 crazy-making things. Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!
This spring, a certain Crazy-Making Thing is the cause of gratitude at Tabby’s Place.
Like any good sitcom cast, the human crew of Tabby’s Place is made up of recognizable characters. Jonathan, for instance, is our Fearless Leader. Danielle is our Cool Head In Crisis. Dr. C is the Woman Of Science. And I am the Cockeyed Optimist…or the Naive Idiot, depending on your opinion.
Naive Idiots say obvious things to identify themselves as naive and idiotic. Things like “Isn’t it amazing that we’ve never had an FIV+ mama cat with kittens who test positive, too?”
I’ve learned, of course, not to actually say such things. If I were to make such a statement, Cool Head In Crisis and the rest of the crew would leap upon me in protest: “DON’T JINX IT YOU NAIVE IDIOT!”
I will state right here that I do not believe in the phenomenon of “jinxing” things. Surely you’ve heard of jinxing. The reasoning goes something like this: don’t announce anything too positive too loudly, or you’ll make it un-happen. Don’t say that something has “never happened,” because that’s a sure way to make it happen.*
But back to the hypothetical FIV+ mama cat and babies.
As you savvy folk know, FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) is an immune-system-slammin’ disease transmitted between cats by deep bite wounds – or in utero. Cats can live long, healthy lives with the virus, which doesn’t deserve its scary reputation. Still, it’s no small thing, and adopting an FIV+ cat is not for everyone. In nearly ten years of Tabby’s Place, we’ve had galumphing hordes mama cats and kittens – but we’ve never had an FIV+ mom.
Everybody dance now, because that’s the good news. Think about it. Savor the amazingness of it. People Who Are Smarter Than Me estimate that 4% of free-roaming cats have FIV – and somehow ten years of Tabby’s Place moms and kittens have eluded it.
Well…almost ten years.
Alas, my friends, and alack, my foes: orange-and-white glamour girl Halladay has tested FIV+.
Halladay came to Tabby’s Place through the superheroine efforts of our vet tech, Denise. Trapping Halladay and her younguns involved crawling through grease and grime in a dark, dank Philadelphia warehouse. (I’m picturing a reenactment of the old War of 1812 song about how “they ran through the briars and they ran through the brambles and they ran through the bushes where a rabbit couldn’t go” – except urbanized. And felinified.)
The orange family’s Tabby’s Place arrival was a triumph. We got them! (And by “we” I mean “Denise, but we collectively took credit for it”!) We loved them! They were happy! They were healthy! They were orinch!
The SNAP test was less of a triumph.
We SNAP test every cat who arrives at Tabby’s Place, to determine whether she has FIV and/or the more sinister feline leukemia virus (FeLV). The test surely obtained its name from the fact that unwanted results cause humans to bellow, “Oh, snap!”**
Oh, snap, indeed.
Halladay snapped crappily: FIV+. This would be crazy-making enough if she were a solo sista – but our girl had four babies.
Transmission of FIV between moms and kittens is a squiffy thing. When an FIV+ mom has babies, the little ones are often born with FIV antibodies. This will make them test positive on a SNAP test. (Oh, snap snap snap snap….) However, antibodies do not make for an FIV+ cat…at least, not necessarily. As the kittens grow, they frequently shed those snappish antibodies and become FIV-. There’s hope that they will shed the antibodies as late as six months of age, so it’s a waiting game of fervent praying and re-testing.
As proclaimed by the great philosopher Tom Petty, the waiting is the hardest part.
Earlier this week, Halladay’s four smidgens – Cole, Chooch, Chase and Mayberry – all tested FIV+ on the SNAP test. (OH SNAP SNAP SNAP SNAP!!!!) But they’re only about six weeks of age, so there are at least two retests in their future.
First, we’ll challenge the SNAP test with a newfangled FIV antigen test. This one will specifically test the kittens for the virus itself, not just the antibodies. According to our Woman Of Science, the antigen test has a 94% accuracy rate — so if the quartet tests negative there, things are looking very good.
Good…but not certain. Yet.
If Halladay’s brood tests negative on the antigen test, we’ll wait until they hit the six-month mark, then re-SNAP ’em. Only the SNAP test has near-100% accuracy…and we don’t want to take any chances putting maybe-FIV+ kittens with decidedly-FIV- cats. We also want to be able to provide potential adopters with the full facts about the kittens.
Meantime, it’s limbo-land for the orinch family. We can’t put Chooch, Chase, Cole and Mayberry with FIV- kittens, just in case they’re FIV+. But we don’t want to put them with FIV+ cats, since they very well may be negative.
Head spinning yet?
Here’s the great glittering silver lining in all this: the kittens are together. They are outrageously, absurdly, off-the-wall happy. They’re all loved on an epic scale. They have their own nursery here at Tabby’s Place, where they practice purring and wrestling and losing gravitation in bouncy bliss.
And do you really think four little orinch puffs are going to have trouble getting adopted, FIV+ or otherwise? If they do, you can paint me green and call me Gumby.***
Proving this point, Halladay – a Cockeyed Optimist in her own right – has already been pre-adopted. So she has FIV. FIV = unadoptable? Bollocks! She’s already loved and claimed and on the fast track to forever. Since being sprung from that Philly warehouse, she’s been spared more scary things than we can imagine.
And there’s no jinxing that kind of goodness.
I’ll keep you posted on Halladay’s honeys as their test results come back. But, in the meantime, feel free to holler out good things with no fear of jinxing them. Gratitude wins – and nothing can snap that.
*But just in case the jinx phenomenon holds any water, I hereby proclaim: Tabby’s Place has never received a donation of $950,000,000,000 from Warren Buffett. We have never had 95 cats adopted in one day. Marcus Mumford has never asked me to marry him.
**Also called an ELISA test. Click here if you’re a Person Of Science and want more detail.
***No, no, actually you can’t. No. Really.
Photo credits: Halladay by Jess The Magnificent. Kittens by Mrs. Marcus Mumford Flangela.