Volunteers at Allied Cats of Columbus just couldn’t say no to Arnie.
When they found the 2-year-old tabby cat living in the streets, he had a badly damaged left eye — probably from a fight with a bigger feline, volunteers speculate.
Then a veterinarian told them Arnie had tested positive for feline immunodeficiency virus, or FIV — similar to the HIV infection in humans.
“We usually don’t take FIV cats, but the options were to have him euthanized or send him back (to the wild,)” said Gracie Silva, Allied Cats vice president.
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Arnie won them over with his friendly personality — an oddity for most feral cats, which typically shy away from humans. He now lives at the organization’s headquarters, waiting for someone to adopt him.
“He has a wonderful personality,” Silva said. “He is a very sweet cat. … It’s like a bird when he purrs.”
Arnie is one of the relatively small number of felines Allied Cats will take in to adopt out to the public. The bulk of their work focuses on TNR, or Trap-Neuter-Return — a method in which feral cats are trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated and then returned to the wild.
The method helps manage the growth of the feral cat population, which is estimated to be in the tens of millions, according to national humane society ASPCA. Controlling the population gives these cats more space, shelter and food as well as fewer risks of disease.
A few make good pets
Since it was founded in 2001 by the late Dr. Ralph McBean, Allied Cats has helped 4,000 feral cats get spayed or neutered — then placed back in the outdoors. Cats are considered feral if they were born and raised outdoors, or were abandoned or lost and went back to their wild ways. Many times, because they’ve had little human contact, they are scared of people and can’t be handled.
But every once in a while, volunteers come across wild felines that could make great pets for humans. Over the past 10 years, Silva said they’ve adopted out “hundreds.”
Volunteers try to keep the number of cats they take in for adoption low. Silva said many times people will assume they take surrendered pets — which they don’t do. The organization, which is run by about 15 volunteers including Silva, keeps its location in Columbus a secret to prevent people from dropping cats off on their doorstep.
Most cats come into the organization as kittens of feral mothers — early enough to be socialized. Their latest intake was a 6-week old kitten found near the body of its mother, who had been hit by a car.
“Most of them come here as little kittens,” Silva said. “Once they’re domesticated, they can’t really survive as feral cats.”
Right now, they are housing about 30 homeless cats, who socialize together in a recently renovated adoption area. The open room allows the cats to roam and keep busy with several cat-friendly attractions — four windows, scratch posts, 12 sleep compartments and two play houses.
In some cases, Allied Cats will take in special needs or older cats like Arnie. Arnie was living in a colony with seven other feral cats when he was found in the backyard of a downtown Columbus home.
The veterinarian had to remove Arnie’s left eye, but Silva said he does just fine with his right. At Allied Cats’ headquarters, Arnie is kept in a separate room with two other FIV-positive felines. FIV cats can transmit the virus to other cats — but not to humans or dogs, Silva said. So, it would be best if his adoptive parent kept him inside as the only cat, or with other FIV-positive cats.
“He just needs to be kept indoors and get a lot of love,” Silva said.