Woman Creates Paradise for Cats With Feline Leukemia

Jennifer Hayes, Best Friends Animal Society
Ranger, who's blind and has feline leukemia, sits with Janet Bushey at their Texas home.

Three special needs cats have found one extra-special home in Texas.

It was early in the summer when Janet Bushey, who has a heart nearly as big as her home state, first heard about the plight of Ranger, a 7-year-old cat at Best Friends Animal Society. Ranger was not only blind but also FeLV-positive — and needed a forever home.

FeLV, or feline leukemia, is a viral infection that can suppress a cat’s immune system. Although some infected cats can clear the virus from their bodies, those that don't will be infected for life. Cats who have it can pass it to other cats they have close contact with.

That meant Bushey, who’d already adopted two healthy senior cats from the Utah animal sanctuary, would have to create a separate space in her home for a FeLV-positive pet to live.

 “I was starting to think that it would be a nice thing to adopt an FeLV-positive kitty  — it just hadn’t been the right time,” says Bushey.

“Then when I saw Ranger, poor little blind guy,” she says, her voice softening. “I’m just a sucker for a sad story,” she says, laughing.

Finding Friends

But she didn’t want Ranger to be lonely, since he’d have to be isolated from her other cats. So she asked the cat adoption manager whether Ranger had a friend with FeLV.

“Well, she sent me two pictures and I said, how could I choose?” says Bushey, who has also rescued a white dove and a 13-year-old Chihuahua.

Jennifer Hayes, Best Friends Animal Society
Mango relaxes in the cat tree in the boys' room in Bushey's home.

Just like that, Ranger, Mango and Chuck became the three amigos.

They were introduced at the shelter to make sure they all got along, and they hit it off.

Bushey’s original cats — both girls — lived in the master suite of her home, so she decided to create another cat room for her FeLV friends. The "kitty paradise" is filled with cat trees and toys for “the boys,” as she calls them.

The boys caught a 13-hour ride to Amarillo, Texas, with Best Friends volunteer Colleen Hart and her husband.

“They all sat in the back perfectly in foldout cloth crates with screens so they could see and support each other during the trip,” Hart says. “It was love at first sight” when Bushey was finally introduced to the kitties in a hotel room in June.

“Chuck went right up to Janet and started rubbing all over her. She held Ranger for a while, and he seemed very relaxed. Meanwhile, Mango was watching everything from across the room,” Hart says.

The next day, Bushey and the trio made the eight-hour drive to her home in Austin.

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