Last April, my sister Tasha went to Kroger to get some groceries and came home with a kitten instead. She said a woman was standing outside the store with a box of kittens and by the time my sister got there only one was left. How could she not take him home?
She took him to the vet where they gave her the second surprise of the day: Not only did she get a new cat, she got a new cat with feline HIV or Feline Immunodeficiency Virus.
According to the ASPCA, FIV is one of the most common diseases found in cats and is more common in males. There isn’t any known cure yet, but symptoms tend to be mild and non-life threatening. Because FIV is an immunodeficiency virus, FIV-positive cats are more susceptible to other types of infections. In severe cases, cats can develop anemia, dental disease and enlarged lymph nodes, among some other symptoms.
My sister already had two cats at the time and decided she couldn’t take a sick cat home to her apartment for fear of this new cat infecting the others. So, she brought him to my apartment instead.
After telling me she already named him Kip, she asked if I could keep him in my apartment for a couple nights until she could take him to a shelter and find him a good home.
Historically, I hate cats. I’m a dog person through and through. But this grey and white little ball of fur was no bigger than my hand and started purring the second I picked him up. How could I not let him stay?
It took approximately 20 minutes for me to decide Kip was going to be mine for good. He won me over with his high-pitched “mew,” and slept on my neck the whole night, purring contently in his new home.
It also didn’t take long for me to notice Kip’s weird tendencies. For one, he wanted to be attached to me at all times, but holding him in my arms wasn’t good enough. He wanted to cling onto my legs. Or sit on my shoulder. Or even try to climb to the top of my head.
He insisted on going to the bathroom with me, and I don’t mean like sitting there in the bathroom with me while I took care of my business — every time I had to pee, he had to pee. He’d climb in his litter box and stare at me, awaiting my approval. To this day if I don’t let him in the bathroom with me he sticks his paws under the door and waves them to let me know he’s very upset.
He also had a strange affinity for climbing into my toilet. I discovered this when I came home one day to find him soaking wet. I was confused, considering I left him locked in my bedroom all day, before I realized I also left the door to my bathroom — which was inside my bedroom — open with the toilet seat up.
You’d think he’d learn after the first time, but every time I’d forget to put the lid down, I’d come home to find a wet cat who just couldn’t help but climb up to see what was happening in there.
Later, I learned there was a possibility he didn’t actually have FIV — he may have tested positive because of an antibody from his mother. We had to wait until he was six months old before testing him again to get a final answer.
Because I had already signed a lease for the following year on a house that didn’t allow cats, my best friend, Grace, offered to house Kip at her place, but only on the condition he re-tested negative for FIV since she also had a cat. If he was positive, Kip would have to go live far away with my mom. I was rooting for Kip to stay in Oxford so I could still visit him all the time.
His six month FIV test fell during a trip to visit my boyfriend, who was living in Australia, so my sister took him to the vet for me. The test happened while I was on the plane and I knew I’d have the answer by the time I landed. I felt like I was waiting for my college acceptance letter all over again — I was so nervous.
When I landed after the 15-hour flight, I ran to the bathroom and stood in the stall to listen to the voicemail from my sister. She had forwarded the vet’s message to me, who said Kip was indeed FIV-free, and I probably scared some strangers when I yelled with happiness that my cat did not have AIDS.
Kip now lives with Grace and her three roommates, who have all become just as attached to him as me. He spends his days roaming from one bedroom to another, soliciting attention from whomever is home at the time. He has an older brother named Jingle Bells, Grace’s 9-year-old orange British shorthair. He’s grown a lot in the last year, but he still likes to play in the toilet.