When For Animals Inc. rescued Dennis from the streets of New York City in May 2022, the five-year-old feline was in bad shape. “He had terrible wounds on his face and scarring and damage to his face and ears from frostbite,” remembers Jenn, a volunteer at For Animals Inc.
Despite his rough exterior, Dennis was incredibly friendly and sweet, causing everyone at the rescue to suspect he was a former house cat who had been abandoned by his family.
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In addition to the injuries Dennis had sustained while living outdoors in harsh conditions, a veterinary examination revealed he was positive for the feline-immunodeficiency virus (FIV). “FIV is a lentivirus, a slow-progressing virus that can compromise a cat’s immune system, reducing their ability to fight off illnesses,” explains Jenn.
While a relatively small percentage of cats in North America have FIV, un-neutered male cats who are allowed outdoors — and are aggressive and prone to fighting — are much more likely to contract the virus. After all, FIV is usually transmitted via deep bite wounds, allowing the virus in an infected cat’s saliva to enter an uninfected cat’s bloodstream. “Bites of this kind are extremely rare, except in free-roaming, un-neutered tomcats,” says Jenn. “FIV is not passed through open wounds.”
It’s also impossible for a cat to transmit the virus to another cat via sneezing, scratching, mutual grooming, mock fighting, cuddling, or sharing litter boxes, food and water bowls, or toys. Consequently, cats with FIV can live with cats who don’t have the virus as long as everyone gets along well with one another. “This is usually a matter of introducing cats slowly,” says Jenn. “You can cuddle FIV and non-FIV cats at the same time and not spread the virus.”
Also, because FIV exclusively affects cats, infected felines like Dennis can’t spread the virus to people or animals of other species, such as dogs. Plus, while people often assume cats with FIV will be less healthy and have shorter lifespans than those without the virus, that isn’t necessarily true. “The virus has a long latent period and then progresses so slowly that it may never affect a cat,” explains Jenn. “That’s why long-term studies show what guardians and rescuers have known for decades — FIV cats can live just as long and be just as healthy, and ultimately die of the same causes as non-FIV cats.”
As a result, there’s no reason to believe Dennis will have a shorter than average life, nor that he will have more health problems than a typical feline, two common misconceptions Jenn has frequently heard about FIV cats. “They act, behave, and usually are as healthy as non-FIV cats,” says Jenn.
That’s definitely the case for Dennis, who loves lounging in the hammock in front of the window in his foster home, soaking up the sun. Also, while he was likely abandoned by his former family, spending an unknown amount of time alone on the streets of New York City, Dennis is extremely affectionate. “Dennis loves to cuddle with his foster mom!” says Jenn. “His ideal adopter would be someone who wants a cuddly, affectionate, outgoing cat, who will shower him or her with love.”
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Unfortunately, while Dennis has been available for adoption for a while, For Animals Inc. has been having trouble finding him a forever home. Jenn believes this might be not just because he has an FIV, which is still very much misunderstood, but also because of the scars on his face. “While we think Dennis is absolutely gorgeous, due to these injuries he sustained, he looks different than most other cats,” says Jenn.
Even though it might take some time, Jenn is confident the right family is out there, and when they finally discover Dennis, they’ll be inspired by this remarkable and resilient boy. “I think he really shows that no matter what happens to you in life, you can turn it around,” says Jenn. “Dennis is awesome!”
If you’re interested in adopting Dennis, you can complete an application.
If you want to to learn more about this handsome boy, you can follow For Animals Inc. on Instagram.