Feline Leukemia Virus in a Shelter Setting: Effectiveness and Outcome

February 3, 2020

Audience: Executive Leadership, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers, Veterinary Team

Organization: Austin Pets Alive!
Investigator(s): Ellen Jefferson
Grant Amount: $16,000.00
Project Type: Phase 1
Project Status: Research Complete

Project Summary

This study evaluated Austin Pets Alive!'s (APA!) model of care and adoption of FeLV-positive cats (FeLV cats) and assessed the experiences of their adopters. Results showed that 90% of the FeLV-positive cats remain alive 12 months after adoption and the average age of surviving cats is 3.32 years thus far, exceeding the commonly industry-cited 2-3 year lifespan for FeLV cats. The majority (65%) of FeLV cat adopters felt that APA!'s education about FeLV was very helpful. Almost all (99%) FeLV cat adopters were happy with their cats, and 80% would be very likely to adopt a FeLV cat again.

Objective(s)

To collect data about APA!'s FeLV cats, including: cat health and age at intake and/or diagnosis, length of stay, presence of concurrent conditions, demographics of adopters, treatments, characteristics of progression of disease, and survival time; and, to survey adopters of FeLV cats, regarding their expectations, experiences and satisfaction, at the time of adoption, and at 6 months and 12 months following adoption.

Methods

In Part 1, 100 cats that entered APA!'s program over a 12-month period were to be assessed over the course of 12 months. Diagnosis of the 100 study cats was performed, basic demographics of the tested FeLV cats were documented, such as the average age of FeLV cats at time of intake and concurrent health condition. Part 2 of the study collected information about expectations and overall experiences of adopters of FeLV cats via surveys at the time of adoption, 6 and 12 months post-adoption, or when the cat became deceased. The survey also tracked cat survival time and aimed to quantify the satisfaction of the adoption experience, perceived health of the adopted cat, and desire to adopt another FeLV cat. Their experience was compared to that of a control group of surveyed FeLV-negative cat adopters. Surveys were tracked through the cat's shelter ID#. (Though originally proposed, the study was not able to include a survey of the occurrence of disease post-adoption, nor a survey at 24 months post-adoption.)

Results

  • Average age of cat at intake was 1.20 years; average current age of the surviving cats is 39.89 months (3.32 years) at the time the report was submitted.
  • Average length of stay for study cats was 88 days.
  • All but 10 of the 100 study cats remain alive 12 months post-adoption. Deceased cats averaged a lifespan of 469.1 days. Of the ten cats known to be deceased, the leading cause of death was feline infectious peritonitis (5 cats), followed by lymphoma (2 cats), anorexia (2 cats), and anemia (1 cat). These leading causes of death (FIP, lymphoma and anemia) match data seen in the greater FeLV cat population at APA!).
  • The first survey conducted at adoption showed that 68% of the respondents that adopted FeLV cats did not plan on adopting a FeLV cat before coming to APA!, but that only 7% felt concerned about living with a FeLV cat. The majority (65%) of FeLV cat adopters felt that APA!'s education about FeLV was very helpful.
  • The second survey at conducted at 6 months post-adoption showed that 99% of adopters were happy with their FeLV cats and 80% would be very likely to adopt a FeLV cat again.
  • The third survey conducted at 12 months post-adoption showed no significant differences with regard to satisfaction and attachment between the group of adopters of FeLV cats and the control group, with both groups rating happiness and attachment to their cats as very high.

Conclusions

This data supports observed success of APA!'s model and can be crucial to the welfare of FeLV cats in shelters. The lifesaving rate was 90% and the average lifespan for surviving cats was longer than their expectancy. Despite an overall shorter lifespan, the survey responses indicate that adopters of FeLV cats report high satisfaction with their decision. The impact of adoption on the adopter's life had an equally positive effect in both groups. These results encourage shelters to place FeLV cats for adoption and provide educational opportunities for their adopters when possible.

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