An FeLV cat’s journey of a lifetime

From being rescued from an animal trap in Eagle River, Alaska, to lounging in laps at the luxurious NEKO Cat Café in Seattle, Washington, Quigley has had quite the journey.

It all started last July with an email plea to Mojo’s Hope from Anchorage Animal Care & Control, a Best Friends Network partner that was overloaded with cats and needed help from local animal welfare organizations.

When Mojo’s Hope founder Shannon Basner saw the photo of a terrified black cat injured in a trap, she knew instantly she wanted to help him. And she already had a name for him, too.

“The cat was traumatized, so we wanted to get him into a calm environment,” says Shannon. “I looked at him and thought: He looks like a Quigley.”

Quigley the cat wearing a bow tie and licking his lips

Rescued cat has FeLV

Within two weeks of foster care at Shannon’s house, Quigley had blossomed into his true personality — love bug.

“He was incredibly outgoing. All he wanted to do is lay in your lap and purr,” says Shannon. “He was just about the sweetest, nicest cat in the universe.”

Like all cats at Mojo’s Hope, Quigley was given a medical exam, bloodwork, and was also fixed and vaccinated. While his cuts and scrapes from the trap episode had started to heal, his blood test came back positive for the feline leukemia virus (FeLV), an immune disorder.

Cats with FeLV can live happily for years, but they must receive regular veterinary care and either be the only cat in the home or reside with another FeLV kitty. The virus is not contagious to humans, but FeLV can be spread to other cats through grooming, shared food bowls, bites and other forms of close contact.

As a result, finding the right home for Quigley (despite his charm) became more challenging. “Sometimes it can take years for FeLV cats to be placed,” says Shannon. But thankfully, a visitor to Mojo’s Hope would soon give hope to both Quigley and Shannon.

More about FeLV

Coming together to save a cat

Taylor Sharp, Pacific regional specialist for Best Friends, had come to Mojo’s Hope over the summer to get a better idea of animal welfare efforts in Alaska. When she met Quigley and heard the concerns about finding him a home, she had an idea. There was an innovative cat café in Seattle that only took in cats with FeLV, and the shelter that sent cats there, Regional Animal Services of King County (RASKC), was a partner in the Best Friends Network.

“Regional Animal Services of King County’s partnership with Café NEKO is so innovative and successful that they sometimes have a shortage of eligible FeLV cats,” says Taylor. “Giving this cat a chance to find a wider audience for adoption and allowing Mojo's Hope to spread the word about how wonderful and adoptable FeLV cats are, via Quigley's story, would be a win for everyone.”

Getting ready to shine in the Emerald City

Though she had grown quite fond of Quigley and had never before placed a cat so far away, Shannon was excited about sending him to Seattle.

“My home wasn’t the ideal setting for Quigley,” she says. “At the café, he would have constant affection and other cats he could socialize with. It was his best chance at a great life.”

Shannon contacted Nickie Ford at RASKC, which would be Quigley’s receiving shelter before the transfer to NEKO Cat Café. During their conversation, Nickie discovered that Quigley was a great candidate for the program.

Quigley the cat sitting on the furniture at the cafe

“It’s always helpful when cats have that friendly, outgoing personality,” she says. “Cats have to be OK with meeting lots of people each day, so it sounded like a good fit for him.”

With October decided as the month for Quigley’s big trip, Shannon, an associated certified behavior consultant, made sure he was ready by increasing his comfort level with a harness and a carrier. She also put together a “Quigley binder” that detailed his daily activities and needs.

Wendy Partusch, president of Mojo’s Hope, flew from Anchorage to Seattle with Quigley, as he rested comfortably at her feet in a padded Sherpa bag. In Seattle, their first stop was King County, where Quigley’s information and medical information was processed, and then it was on to NEKO Cat Café.

From café life to life in a home

The transition went smoothly. Shannon was thrilled to hear that Quigley quickly fit right in and quickly charmed café owner Caitlin Unsell, staff and visitors. “He is amazing. Everyone is obsessed with Quigley,” says Caitlin. “He follows us around and sleeps on everyone’s lap. Quigley’s just a dream.”

Inspired after living two years in Japan where cat cafés are common, Caitlin opened NEKO Cat Café in November of 2017, but added a compassionate twist.

“I wanted to help the cats that needed the most help getting adopted,” she says. “I was told that FeLV cats were the last to find homes, so I wanted to give them a chance to show their best selves.”

At NEKO, Quigley shares the café with about a dozen other cats with FeLV, some from as far away as Hawaii and North Carolina. And he’s already found his calling, Caitlin says. “He welcomes all the new cats by grooming and snuggling them. Quigley comforts everyone until they’re ready to come out and socialize. He’s like the father of the house.”

Caitlin holding Quigley the cat

Quigley will soon have his own home to enjoy because a café employee has decided to adopt him. That doesn’t mean his days at NEKO have come to an end, though. “Quigley may have to make some guest appearances — we’re all so in love with him,” says Caitlin.

The teamwork necessary to help an injured cat become a beloved pet was something that Nickie really appreciated.

“It’s been exciting to see this sort of change in animal welfare, where groups are a lot more willing to work and connect with each other,” she says. “We all want the same thing — to save these animals. Quigley is proof that we can save even more lives by working together.”

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Photos by NEKO Cat Café and Paw-Prints, Howls and Purrs©