Unlike my usual postings this isn’t a post with my pictures and perhaps a story this is a story with pictures.
In the beginning
This story starts in the spring of 2006. Every since I was a child and had grown up with a family of cat owners I’ve owned at least one cat at a time.I am a self-confessed, 100 per cent, fully-subscribed, card-carrying, ailurophile (cat lover). I’d recently moved in to a new flat and was at the time living on my own and without any pets and I don’t mind admitting I was lonely, something that is only too common in this day and age in a big city like London. I knew that I needed the companionship of a cat and decided to try and adopt a cat from a local cat charity.
I approached them and a lady visited to do a home check and assess my suitability as a cat owner. The flat was on the third floor of a converted house and without direct outside access and she asked me if I’d give some consideration to adopting an F.I.V cat as it would make an ideal indoor cat and then went on to explain to me what F.I.V was all about. If you’ve never heard about F.I.V or to give it it’s full name, Feline Immuno-deficiency Virus then you’re certainly not alone as, at the time, neither had I. Put simply F.I.V is the cat equivalent of H.I.V in humans and F.I.V cats do best when kept indoors free from infections and contact with other cats. In this environment the probability of them leading pretty normal lives and living a good lifespan is fairly high.
As you can imagine there’s a lot of misunderstanding of the disease and some prejudice against adopting them. From that point on I decided that I wanted to look towards adopting an F.I.V cat. Unfortunately the charity didn’t at the time have any F.I.V cats on their books for re-homing but after and internet search I found another charity trying to re-home a beautiful 2 year old white and tabby cat called “Little Al”. The pictures of him on their website instantly melted my heart and it was, as they say, love at first sight.
See what I mean, cute huh!, Little Al (Alfie) 2006.
I rang the lady from charity, a lovely compassionate lady whom, I’m delighted say, has since become a close friend and she gave me all the information on Little Al as he’d be nicknamed His story touched me as he’d been picked up by a dog warden in one of London’s most under-privileged areas. He’d been bitten by another cat. probably how he contracted F.I.V put in a dog pen and then transferred to one of her colleagues where, during a visit, she’d discovered him cowering in the corner of a cage in the garden terrified of other cats. If that isn’t a pretty bad start to life then tell me what is?. Several days later the lady and her husband kindly drove Little Al, shortly to be renamed Alfie, over to me and he was mine or perhaps I should more accurately say I was his.
I could probably write a book about Alfie and his exploits. He was perhaps the most intelligent and loving cat that I’ve ever know, we just bonded instantly. From that point on I was his comfort-blanket as, in all truth, he was mine through very rough times after my mother was hospitalised for nearly a year and eventually had to leave her rented accommodation and move to a nursing home. He was always there for me as I like to think that I was always there for him. My greatest joy was to see him change from a timid, nervous little cat in to a supremely confident happy cat, he flourished in a secure loving environment and went from strength to strength.
After I’d had Alfie for about six months I got a phone call from the lady at the charity telling me about another F.I.V cat that a friend of hers at another local cat charity was trying to find a home for without success and inquiring if I might perhaps know of anyone and/or be happy to advise prospective owners on my experiences with F.I.V. He was a three year old black cat called Frank Now if there’s probably anything that can hamper a cat’s chances of finding a home as any cat charity will tell you, it’s being a black cat thanks in part to stupid superstition that they are unlucky as well as some people’s preferences for more “prettier” cats and throw in the fact that he was F.I.V positive with a slightly deformed ear and it won’t come as a surprise to learn that my enquiries quickly drew a blank.
I had already started considering getting a companion for Alfie as I was spending increasing amounts of time working, visiting the hospital and sorting out my Mother’s affairs, putting in some very long days and I thought that perhaps getting another F.I.V cat would be a good option. So, a few days later, the deed was done, I got Frank or Frankie as he’d quickly become. Unlike Alfie who was positively waif-like, Frankie has always been a big, solidly-built cat. I vividly remember the day that he arrived, we opened the cat carrier cage and it was like something out of a cartoon film, a huge black cat leaped out and, faster that a twitch of a cat’s whisker assessed the situation and in a cat-shaped blur made a bee line for the most inaccessible spot in the flat, under a shelving unit in a corner of the living room with only one way in and out causing both Alfie and myself to to do a “I tort I taw a puddy tat” double take. There Frankie remained for three days only venturing as far as to stick his head our far enough to polish off his cat food which drove Alfie absolutely nuts. By day three Frankie had decided that he’d come to no harm, had good food and felt safe enough to venture out and explore the flat, in a way the moment of truth had arrived, how would they take to each other?. Much to my relief the answer was, just fine. Frankie made a quick inspection of his new home with Alfie following at a respectful distance in a little procession and from that day on a special kind of friendship was formed.
Now if Alfie was one of life’s sprinters who did everything at turbo speed then Frankie’s one of life’s long distance runners if ,in his case, running is not too energetic a word to use.! Alfie was leader, he organised things and ran the household and Frankie was more than happy to follow in his paw steps. That’s what made the chemistry between them work. They could be very close at times and I often saw them curled up together whilst on another day it was clear that Alfie was the one in charge and laying the law down in a “If you’re on the bed and I want to jump up you get down, do I make myself perfectly clear?” sort of way. It’s no exaggeration to say that together they made a great team. Sadly after many happy years together Alfie finally succumbed to the effects of the disease but, as the saying goes, “The candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long” and Alfie burned very bright. I was very concerned about how Frankie would take Alfie’s passing, the dynamic had changed and as they were so close but I’m happy to say that my concerns were to a large extend ill-founded. After a period of confusion he’s developed in to a much bolder personality. Behind those green eyes there’s a very clever little brain at work and it was as if he’d been quietly observing Alfie’s style and decided that the time had come to organise things to his liking for himself which in sneaky sort of way has earned my greatest respect. Clever to be content to play second fiddle and let Alfie do the organising for him until such time as he needed to do so for himself.
I’ve now had Frankie for ten years and he’s coming up to his thirteenth birthday. A couple of years ago he was diagnosed with a thyroid problem and I’ve just discovered after a visit to the vets that he has developed a tumour and we don’t know how long he has left but in all other respects he’s still a very happy and content cat and as loving as always. None of his illnesses are attributable to his F.I.V condition and can be common in many cats of his age. I wanted to write this post to describe our journey together and to champion the cause of F.I.V cats and make it clear from my experiences that F.I.V cats are just as loving and “normal” as any other cats. I leave you with a picture of the boys together.
PS. I thought I’d add this Flash animation that I did some years ago for a bit of fun.