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Couple hope to build hospice in Weardale for virus-hit cats
AN animal sanctuary has applied for planning permission to build the only hospice in the country for cats with feline Aids.
Gareth and Jan Edwards first became aware of the illness six years ago while helping feral cats in St John’s Chapel in Weardale, County Durham.
They found that 80 per cent of the animals had Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), which is a permanent illness similar to HIV in humans that destroys the immune system and can lead to Aids.
They converted a room at their home, which is also Far Place Animal Sanctuary, in nearby Westgate as a safe place for the diagnosed.
Now they are applying to Durham County Council for planning permission to build an extension that will give the FIV cats more space and an outdoors area to enjoy while still being secure and safe.
Mrs Edwards said the disease is transmitted through deep, penetrating bites and can only be passed between cats.
She said: “It is not a condition that can be passed to humans or even any other animals.
“We have had about 50 kittens born from mothers with FIV, all of whom have been negative for the disease, it is only passed through bites.”
The hospice takes in cats from all over the country and Ireland, otherwise the animals would most likely be put down.
If the condition is properly managed, cats can live a full lifespan so long as they are kept in a safe place where there is little risk of them getting an infection.
The sanctuary has 12 cats with the condition, which is classed as a slow virus, but Mrs Edwards said more are being found.
According to Catwork, a charity that helps cats with special needs, the virus is misunderstood and while not fatal in itself, it leaves the sufferer much more vulnerable to contracting other diseases and infections.
A spokesman for Catwork said: “FIV positive cats can, and deserve to have, a long and healthy life.
“They need careful attention to their general health and diet, but this is no more than any cat should receive.”