Sweet Kitten With Tragic Secret Surrendered To Foster Mom; Now Needs Her Special Forever Home

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When a sweet young kitten was brought to animal rescuer Khrystyne Tschinkel for help, she couldn’t refuse. The poor little girl was suffering from numerous ailments that needed immediate attention. If Khrystyne hadn’t given the feline a home, it’s likely she would not be alive today. But when she opened her doors to the surrendered kitten, she unknowingly let in danger. The kitten who deserved nothing less than a loving home and happy life had a tragic secret. It wasn’t a secret that would have stopped Khrystyne from helping her–nothing like that. However, now that the secret is out, that sweet kitten needs to find a special forever home. A home where she can live the rest of her life in happiness–no matter how long that may be for.

Photo courtesy of Khrystyne Tschinkel

Pepper’s Story – collaboration by Khrystyne Tschinkel and JessiCAT

Khrystyne: I started TNR about 3 years ago, when we moved to our new place. There were cats and kittens everywhere. Took a while, but I got them all.

Someone reached out to me over Facebook, remembering all the TNR work I did. She claimed she found Pepper outside and was moving, so she couldn’t keep her. I asked a lot of questions before agreeing to take her on, including her FeLV and FIV status. She said she didn’t know Pepper’s status.

Photo courtesy of Khrystyne Tschinkel

I hesitantly agreed to take Pepper on, as the alternative was for this person to turn her over to a shelter. The shelters here in New Orleans are always full and I was worried for Pepper’s safety.

I took Pepper in and scheduled a vet appointment right away.

It was clear she had fleas, was underweight, and had red bald patches of skin all over her face, neck, and chest. The bald patches did not look like typical ringworm, I hoped it was an allergic reaction to the fleas. I planned to keep her separate in my bathroom until the tests were complete.

Photo courtesy of Khrystyne Tschinkel

On top of the fleas she came back positive for intestinal parasites and ringworm. Pepper was negative for FIV but had a positive snap test for FeLV.

Due to the sensitive nature of false positives for the snap test, Pepper would need to be tested for FeLV again. We had hoped it would turn negative. I had to keep Pepper in my bathroom until the ringworm was gone. The bathroom was easily bleached, but Pepper was a bit lonely. She wanted to be with humans and cuddle. I did my best to keep her entertained with new toys,…etc.

After a month and a second FeLV positive snap test, Pepper’s FeLV status was confirmed positive by the more expensive laboratory IFA test. While upsetting, this did not mean an end for Pepper.

Photo courtesy of Khrystyne Tschinkel

During Pepper’s treatments, Khrystyne received some new–and disturbing–information on her backstory.

After trying to network Pepper and attempting to find her a home, Pepper’s first owner also reached out to me. Apparently, the first owner did find Pepper outside and took her to the vet immediately. Pepper tested positive for FeLV on an initial snap test.

The first owner needed to rehome Pepper, because she already had a FeLV negative cat. The first owner adopted Pepper out to the woman who surrendered Pepper to me. She was honest with her about Pepper’s FeLV status. Apparently, the second woman no longer wanted to keep Pepper due to medical bills. So, the woman I took Pepper from lied about finding Pepper and not knowing Pepper’s FeLV status.

Photo courtesy of Khrystyne Tschinkel

While Khrystyne is happy she’s been able to help Pepper, it’s frustrating her FeLV (possible) status wasn’t mentioned initially.

Khrystyne’s three other felines had been placed in unnecessary danger. Had she been told, she would have searched for a solo foster home or for one with another FeLV resident cat. 

This put my cats at risk. I have re-upped my cats FeLV immunizations and I keep the separate from Pepper. But Pepper is a rambunctious kitten and has escaped once or twice, coming into contact with my cats. I will now need to watch my cat’s health and give them all snap tests when Pepper leaves).

This wouldn’t stop her from doing all she could to give Pepper a long, healthy life.

Photo courtesy of Khrystyne Tschinkel

We rid Pepper of the fleas and parasites quickly. Ringworm took much longer. Even though she was still going through ringworm treatment, I tried looking for a home for her. No one was interested.

After 5-6 weeks of treatment Pepper is now ringworm free, but still no one has come for an interview. Pepper now lives in my bedroom and is much happier. She gets loads more attention and cuddles. I still post about her, and I am in the process of setting up a Petfinder account to promote Pepper more.

Now that she is off all medication she is scheduled for her spay day, April 9th.

She is mostly happy living in my bedroom (much better than the bathroom) but she can’t stay quarantined in the small space away from my resident pets forever. After her spay she will be ready for a new home.

Photo courtesy of Khrystyne Tschinkel

Pepper is one of the sweetest natured cats I have ever met. Now at 5 months old, she loves to play and climb. She loves feathers and carrying toys in her mouth. She will play peekaboo and comes running to greet you at the door.

I have fallen in love with her, and she would certainly be a foster fail if it wasn’t for her FeLV status.

Photo courtesy of Khrystyne Tschinkel

Despite the FeLV positive status, Pepper is not showing any clinical symptoms of the disease and will likely continue to be healthy until the end of her life.

85% of cats with FeLV die within three years of their diagnosis. However, it is impossible to tell exactly how long Pepper will live.

Pepper will need biannual vet checkups, and a parent who is aware of the clinical signs and symptoms of FeLV disease. She needs things to be extra clean because of her compromised immune system. Things like the stainless-steel bowls and litter boxes should be cleaned daily. If kept strictly indoors and in a clean environment, it will be less likely for Pepper to pick up a secondary infection.

Photo courtesy of Khrystyne Tschinkel

Even treats like small bits of cheese will be especially unhealthy for Pepper (bacteria in cheese). A strict diet must be followed. Once someone is aware of how FeLV works, Pepper is easy to care for and medical bills are generally not too much more. She just needs lots of love and someone willing to keep an eye out for any possible health changes.

For more information on caring for FeLV cats, please follow these links. 

If you are interested in giving Pepper a loving home, please reach out to Khrystyne at ktschink@tulane.edu.

Photo courtesy of Khrystyne Tschinkel


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