Clinic takes ownership of ailing therapy cat

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter

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photoVeterinarians discovered the therapy cat Shade has feline immunodeficiency virus, the cat equivalent of HIV.

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How to help

Want to donate to pets in need? Local nonprofits provide animals with medical care:

Furry Friends Rescue

Location: 6715 N.E. 63rd St., Suite 450.

Website: http://www.furryfriendswa.org/

Contact: 360-993-1097 or information@furryfriendswa.org

Panda Paws Animal Rescue

Location: 14300 N.E. 20th Ave., Unit D102

Website: http://www.pandapawsrescue.com/

Contact: amanda@pandapawsrescue.org

Second Chance Companions

Website: http://www.sccpets.com/

Contact: 360-687-4569 or info@sccpets.com

Veterinarians discovered that the wounded therapy cat Shade has feline immunodeficiency virus, the cat equivalent of HIV. Blood work done at the Orchards Veterinary Clinic Tuesday afternoon showed that Shade contracted FIV, likely during a cat fight. The virus, found in about 2 to 4 percent of cats, has no specific antiviral treatment.

Shade's owner, Julie Donahue-Hansen, 47, brought the cat in for an examination following an outpouring of community support to cover the feline's medical expenses. Donahue-Hansen is unemployed and couldn't afford vet expenses for her cat. Shade's health problems were detailed in a Tuesday story in The Columbian.

"I'm not used to people helping out," she said. "I feel so blessed right now."

Community Services Northwest's Program for Assertive Community Treatment gave her the therapy cat on Feb. 1, a year to the day after her cat Nevada died from leukemia.

About a week ago, Shade went missing for two days and came back with most of his teeth missing, cuts on his head, stomach and the inside of his ear, and a limp. Sometimes, blood drains from his mouth.

Veterinarians say Shade needs to undergo surgery to fix his mouth. Most of his teeth were broken off at the gum line, so the roots need to be removed, along with any remaining teeth. When the veterinarian opened Shade's mouth, a foul smell came out -- a sign that infection was setting in.

Shade's future

The clinic left Donahue-Hansen with a tough decision: put the cat down; release him to the clinic and have him placed in a new home; or go through with the surgery and incur any medical costs as the virus progresses.

She released the cat over to the clinic, which will go through with the surgery free of charge.

"We'll miss our Shade, but he'll be happy," Donahue-Hansen said. "I can't thank the Orchards clinic enough."

The clinic looks to place Shade in a home, potentially with other cats that have the same condition. He'll need to be confined to the indoors to prevent spreading the virus to other cats and to protect him from disease-causing agents. Humans cannot be infected by FIV.

Over the course of his life, Shade will be more susceptible to infection due to his compromised immune system. His future owners will incur ongoing expenses, but he may otherwise live a long life.

Although a few donations have already come into the Orchards Veterinary Clinic, 6307 N.E. 117th Ave., further donations are not being accepted at this time.

Shade will be treated over the next couple of days and will start taking antibiotics. About a week after surgery, he'll be able to eat again.

"Just because he has a disease … that's OK," Donahue-Hansen said. "He'll feel like a whole new boy."

Patty Hastings: 360-735-4513; http://twitter.com/col_cops;patty.hastings@columbian.com.